What Have We Learned About Law and Development? Describing, Predicting and Assessing Legal Reforms in China
50 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2008
Date Written: February, 28 2008
This article applies and assesses existing conceptual tools for describing, predicting and evaluating legal reforms to reforms in China. The goal is to shed light on the various pathways and methodologies of reform so as to facilitate assessment of competing reform strategies. While drawing on China for concrete examples, the discussion involves issues that are generally applicable to comparative law and the new law and development movement, and thus addresses the broader issue of what we know and don't know about legal reforms.
In general, our descriptive metaphors tend to oversimplify the reform process and fail to address the issue of prediction; our ability to predict success and failure and derive useful policy recommendations is limited by the abstractness of existing indicators for measuring rule of law, and is likely to remain limited due to the diversity and path-dependent nature of legal reforms in particular countries; and our ability to assess legal reforms meaningfully is complicated by competing and contested standards and the long timeframe for reforms to take hold. Nevertheless, there has been some progress in understanding and explaining the relationship between law and development, and further studies will continue to shed more light on the process. Accordingly, it would be a mistake to prematurely give up on the revival of law and development, just as it was a mistake for American academics to abandon ship in the earlier round of law and development in the 1960s and '70s.
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