Informalizing the Formal: Labor Relations in Cambodia

Justice for the Poor, Vol. 1, No. 3, August 2007

4 Pages Posted: 16 May 2008 Last revised: 9 Jun 2008


It is far easier to make law than it is to realize its normative potential. In theory, the expectation of enforcement allows the law to cast its shadow over the way in which people, businesses and bureaucracies behave. But what happens when the agencies of law enforcement (judicial and administrative) are inaccessible or corruptible, or when normative orders outside the formal legal system cast far deeper shadows than the law? This is so often the case in the countries in which we work as to make it one of the central questions of law and development. The case study presented in this paper - looking at labor reforms in Cambodia - highlights innovative ways in which the normative potential of law can be harnessed without relying on formal enforcement mechanisms. Further, it argues that providing support for collective contests - and whatever institutional spaces allow such contests to be played out most equitably in a given political moment - should be at the forefront of our thinking as law and development practitioners.

Keywords: Cambodia, Labor, legal pluralism, interim institutions, law and development

JEL Classification: K31, O17

Suggested Citation

Adler, Daniel, Informalizing the Formal: Labor Relations in Cambodia. Justice for the Poor, Vol. 1, No. 3, August 2007, Available at SSRN:

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