(Economic) Development and the Rule of Law
In Jens Meierhenrich and Martin Loughlin (eds), The Cambridge Companion to the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming).
27 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 10, 2019
Since the end of the 1980s, a multi-billion dollar development industry has become centrally concerned with ‘the rule of law’ as instrument, end, and indicator of ‘development’. Yet, while the term ‘rule of law’ may be a relative newcomer to the development project, this most recent form of developmental intervention continues in striking ways the nineteenth and early twentieth century attempts to reshape the non-European world. In those earlier interventions, the ‘gift’ of law was integral to the civilising mission, promising both a ‘universal’ mode of being in the world and a guide for realising it. Thus it was imagined by some that (European) law could spearhead efforts to turn the new world to account, by providing the technology by which its lands and peoples could become the property and propertied transactors of an emerging global economy. Law was imagined too as a pedagogy for constituting ‘modern’ legal subjects, and as an institutional system for regulating and enforcing the new economic norms. In this chapter we use the example of Liberia to illustrate the work that the ‘rule of law’ does today in the context of developmental and state-making interventions, as well as to draw out some of the continuities with earlier forms of intervention. We have chosen Liberia because of its extraordinary and yet all-too-ordinary experience of development throughout its colonial and post-colonial periods. In describing Liberia’s experience as at once extraordinary and ordinary, singular and exemplary, we aim to show how the putative universality of ‘the rule of law’ in the development project is both economically inflected and Occidentally derived, and to highlight the violence of developmental interventions carried out in its name.
Keywords: rule of law, economic development, Liberia, post-colonial studies
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