Politics in the Origins: The Making of Corporate Law in Nineteenth-Century Brazil

46 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2011 Last revised: 7 Aug 2013

See all articles by Mariana Pargendler

Mariana Pargendler

European Corporate Governance Institute; Harvard University - Harvard Law School

Date Written: July 1, 2012


The growing recognition of the role of law in financial and economic development has generated significant disagreement about what determines the structure and content of legal institutions in the first place. Legal traditions and local politics have emerged in the literature as the most likely sources of legal development, but the relationship between these two forces remains largely unexplored. This Article investigates the determinants of legal evolution by examining the development of corporate laws in Brazil since the early nineteenth century. Contrary to standard views, foreign commercial law models were neither forcefully imposed by Portuguese colonizers nor followed automatically due to language or cultural affinity with the French legal tradition. Brazilian lawmakers deliberately picked and chose among the laws of different civil and common law jurisdictions, and substantially altered their essence, in order to best fit the interests of incumbent elites. Politics mattered from the outset, while legal family considerations were not a significant constraint to early transplant decisions. This Article also suggests that selective legal transplants and local adaptations were one of the channels through which elites periodically recreated inefficient institutions over time.

Suggested Citation

Pargendler, Mariana, Politics in the Origins: The Making of Corporate Law in Nineteenth-Century Brazil (July 1, 2012). American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 60, No. 3, Summer 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1891915

Mariana Pargendler (Contact Author)

European Corporate Governance Institute ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels

Harvard University - Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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