Law and Development: 40 Years after Scholars in Self Estrangement - A Preliminary Review

33 Pages Posted: 10 May 2014

See all articles by David M. Trubek

David M. Trubek

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: May 9, 2014


Noting that 2014 is the 40th anniversary of the publication of Scholars in Self-Estrangement, the author looks at the field of law and development during these four decades. In a preliminary report, he reviews the critique outlined in Scholars and the claim that its publication killed the field it was designed to save. While acknowledging that the field had lost momentum by 1980 he argues that the decline occurred not because of the article but because the field lost the support of development agencies before it could establish a secure place in the academy. Noting that the field revived in the late 1980s-early 1990s, he observes that conditions for law and development scholarship are much better today and there is a proliferation of research much of which has avoided errors pointed to in Scholars. This proliferation has enriched the field but at the price of fragmentation: the field has split into a number of “sub-disciplines” that do not always communicate with one another. The article scans the field in the 21st Century, noting the influence of new ideas about development which stress experimentation and local variation in policy. These, combined with a better understanding of the embeddness of local legal systems and the limits of legal transplants demands more attention to local context and variation. Looking to the future, the author concludes that if law and development is to produce useable knowledge the separate aspects of the field should be better integrated, more attention paid to local variation and context in law and policy, research capacity in the Global South enhanced, and North-South communication improved.

Keywords: Law and Development, Transnational Law, Legal Education

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Trubek, David M., Law and Development: 40 Years after Scholars in Self Estrangement - A Preliminary Review (May 9, 2014). Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1255, Available at SSRN: or

David M. Trubek (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

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