The Short Happy Life of the Yale Program in Law and Modernization: From the Cold War to Comparative Legal Sociology and Critical Legal Studies
Revista Estudos Institucionais, v. 7, n. 2, maio/ago. 2021
7 Journal of Institutional Studies 2 (2021)
137 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2021 Last revised: 23 Sep 2021
Date Written: September 16, 2021
In 1969, the Yale Law School received a $1,000,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development for a Program in Law and Modernization. Yale promised to study legal impediments to modernization, assess legal needs of modernization projects, train lawyers for research and development work, and disseminate knowledge. The Program was conceived by David Trubek and William Felstiner, former USAID lawyer-administrators, who, along with Richard Abel, ran it.
Launched in the shadow of the Cold War, it started with the implicit promise of diffusing US liberal ideas about law and transplanting US legal institutions and culture, and was seemingly aligned with US foreign policy. Flush with USAID resources, the Program mounted innovative courses, brought Visiting Professors and Fellows with Third World expertise to Yale, supported scholars from the Third World and elsewhere seeking advanced degrees, funded research by Yale faculty, students, and Fellows, held workshops and conferences, and published Working Papers and articles.
Linked with the nascent Law and Society Association, it sought to create a Comparative Sociology of Law. There were vigorous debates ranging from the nature of law and social science to the role of the US in the Third World, all on a campus roiled by student protests over the War in Vietnam and racism in the US. Gradually, the Program became a locus for critique of liberal ideas about law and social science, a source of doubts about US foreign policy, and an incubator for critical studies in law and legal sociology. By 1976, the founding directors were gone and the Program was soon closed. In 1977, nine law professors convened the first Critical Legal Studies conference: six had been involved with the Program while at Yale and the others had interacted with it.
Keywords: Law and Development, Cold War Social Science, Critical Legal Studies, Modernization Theory, Yale Law School, Legal Sociology, Legal Thought, Foreign Policy, Law and Society, Legal History
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