WG Law and Development


Pedro Fortes (Brazilian, Professor of Law at State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ))

David Restrepo-Amariles (Colombian, Associate Professor at HEC, Paris)

Academic focus  

Our research agenda includes six different sub-themes of law and development, which are summarized below:

1) Theory and History of Law and Development – Max Weber’s puzzle continues to entertain scholars who examine the different legal families, historical origins, and juridical rationalities in search for a relationship between law and socio-economic development. This theoretical enquiry animated the various cycles of the law and development movement since the pioneers involved with the SLADE project in the 1960s until the recent experience with the new developmental state. Law and Development motivated the foundation of new law schools in the global south; funding for numerous judicial and legislative reforms; the waves of access to justice & ADR; the reinvention of markets, institutions and the new regulatory state; the mathematical turn promoted by legal indicators; and the contemporary reflections on sustainable development. It put scholars in self-estrangement and beyond self-estrangement, examining Max Weber’s puzzle with socio-legal methodology and post-colonial attitude.

2) Institutions, Markets and Regulations – the idea that “institutions” are the critical dimension for economic development has become predominant in the field of law and development. Yet, there is not much consensus on what type of institutions do countries need, and how to change dysfunctional institutions. These questions are becoming even more important in the context of worldwide criticisms to the neoliberal recipes for development, and the apparent trend towards more active regulatory interventions in the economy. This subgroup of study will advance this line of socio-legal research by examining new tendencies in regulatory states, and the effective construction of different institutional frameworks for social and economic development.

3) Constitutionalism, Democracy, and the Rule of Law – this subgroup will focus on the analysis of the connection between constitutional design, the establishment of democracy, and the strengthening of the rule of law. Following a multidisciplinary approach, this sub-group will study the importance of those elements in the complex process of state-building and institutional development. Among the central questions that this group will address are the following: Which are the consequences of different institutional arrangements? How can the rule of law be established? How democratic systems have emerged and got consolidated?

4) Legal metrics and new technologies – this stream addresses the relationship between legal metrics and new technologies on the one hand, and social change on the other hand. The emergence and consolidation of indicators, algorithms and Big Data in the past 10 years has made a notable impact on decision-making processes regarding law in society, and has become an area of socio-legal inquiry of contemporary relevance. Policy-makers in national and international organizations, managers in transnational corporations, and lawyers in global law firms are increasingly expected to make evidence-based decisions with the support of legal measures and technology. Moreover, this stream engages with previous literature on law and finance, and law science and technology to look at questions such as: what makes a given country’s legal system more inducing to socio-economic development relative to another? How does technological change disrupts classic law making, law administration and law enforcement in developing societies (e.g. the role of technology in the Arab spring?)

5) Access to Justice and Alternative Dispute Resolution – this sub-theme examines the impact of the different waves of access to justice on the protection and enforcement of rights in developing countries. Mass litigation generated particular remedies, like US style class actions, the EU model of collective redress, and the Latin American civic-public action. Additionally, the justice system established small claims courts with low or no court usage fees. Likewise, legal aid and offices of public defenders (‘defensores del pueblo’) guarantee the day in court to the poor. The strategy of ‘multi-doors’ courtroom also proliferated throughout the globe and alternative dispute resolution became an important mechanism for access to justice. Finally, this sub-theme will also examine the implementation of legal frameworks for domestic and international arbitration (including investment arbitration) and its particular growth in developing economies.

6) Sustainable Development – this stream examines the role of law in shaping development from a biocentric or an anthropocentric way. Importantly, sustainability requires proportionality between means and ends, economic balance within a cost-benefit analysis, and precaution typical of our risk societies. In this complex setting, environmental protection is the object of institutional competition between courts and regulators, treated sometimes as a question of principled rights and sometimes as a matter for policy analysis.

This page last updated 20 November 2017 – Transferred from the old RCSL Website on 3 January 2024

About the WG Law and Development, see also the Report submitted to the Board meeting of 18 March 2024.