Transnational Legal Process and State Change

54 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 5 Jun 2014

See all articles by Gregory Shaffer

Gregory Shaffer

University of California, Irvine School of Law


Although the terms transnational law and state transformations are increasingly used, we need clearer conceptual work and more empirical study. This Article sets forth and applies a socio-legal approach to the study of transnational legal processes and their effects within countries. First, the Article clarifies the concepts of transnational law, transnational legal process, transnational legal order, state change and transformation, and recursivity. Second, it provides a typology of five dimensions of state change that we can assess empirically - changes in substantive law and practice; broader shifts in the boundary between the state, the market and other forms of social ordering; changes in the architecture and allocations of authority among state institutions; the shaping of markets for professional expertise and expertise’s role in governance; and shifts in normative frameworks and the accountability mechanisms and associational patterns that convey them. Third, it explains the factors that determine the variable effects of transnational legal processes and organizes these factors into three clusters, which are: the character of the transnational legal norm and order; the relation of the transnational legal order to the receiving state in terms of power and the place of intermediaries; and the affinity of the transnational legal norm with demands of domestic elites and other constituencies in light of domestic political struggles and the extent of change at stake. Fourth, it introduces five empirical studies of transnational legal processes’ differential effects in six regulatory areas in Asia, Africa and South America that illustrate these points. Together they provide a guide of how to study the interaction of transnational and national legal processes, and the extent and limits of transnational legal processes’ effects.

Keywords: Transnational Legal Process, Transnational Legal Orders, Transnational Law, Recursivity, State Transformation, Dimensions of State Change, Conditions and Factors in State Change

Suggested Citation

Shaffer, Gregory C., Transnational Legal Process and State Change. Law and Society Inquiry, 2012, New York University Institute for International Law and Justice No. 2010/4, APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Society of International Economic Law (SIEL), Second Biennial Global Conference University of Barcelona, IELPO Programme, July 8-10, 2010, Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-28, Available at SSRN:

Gregory C. Shaffer (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92612
United States

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