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)

Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1717

137 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2021 Last revised: 23 Sep 2021

See all articles by David M. Trubek

David M. Trubek

University of Wisconsin Law School

Richard L. Abel

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Bryant Garth

University of California, Irvine School of Law; American Bar Foundation

Afroditi Giovanopoulou

Columbia University

Duncan Kennedy

Harvard Law School

Boaventura de Sousa Santos

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: September 16, 2021

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Trubek, David M. and Abel, Richard L. and Garth, Bryant and Giovanopoulou, Afroditi and Kennedy, Duncan and de Sousa Santos, Boaventura, The Short Happy Life of the Yale Program in Law and Modernization: From the Cold War to Comparative Legal Sociology and Critical Legal Studies (September 16, 2021). Revista Estudos Institucionais, v. 7, n. 2, maio/ago. 2021, 7 Journal of Institutional Studies 2 (2021), Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1717, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3925181

David M. Trubek (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

Richard L. Abel

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

Bryant Garth

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949-824-7230 (Phone)
949-824-0495 (Fax)

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-988-6575 (Phone)
312-988-6579 (Fax)

Afroditi Giovanopoulou

Columbia University ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Duncan Kennedy

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
L333
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-4619 (Phone)

Boaventura De Sousa Santos

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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