The Rule of Law

The Rule of Law

The Common Sense of Global Politics

Christopher May

This timely book explores the complexities of the rule of law – a well-used but perhaps less well understood term - to explain why it is so often appealed to in discussions of global politics. Ranging from capacity building and the role of the World Bank to the discourse(s) of lawyers and jurisprudential critiques, it seeks to introduce non-lawyers to the important and complex political economy of the rule of law.

Chapter 4: Building the rule of law with a political focus

Christopher May

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, law - academic, law and society, legal philosophy, legal theory, politics and public policy, political economy


The rule of law has become a new rallying cry for global missionaries. (Garth and Dezalay 2002, p. 1) Today's export of democracy occurs in a context of much diminished expectations for non-Western states in the wake of the perceived failure (for the most part) in the experiment in post-colonial independence. (Chandler 2006, pp. 490-1) The rule of law that peace-building missions are mandated to inculcate cannot exist where either rulers or ruled (or both) feel free to ignore them. (McAuliffe 2011, p. 135) In this chapter I explore the way the rule of law is linked to political development most often with the intent of restoring order in post-conflict states. In the following chapter, I'll look at how economic arguments are then used to buttress the political development of specific forms of the rule of law. In the most general terms, the purpose of much of the activity discussed in this and the next chapter is to make the law count in ways that previously it has not. Moreover, the rule of law is tied up with the articulation and mobilization of political power; any radical change or reform of the rule of law in a country at the very least will change the way the country's rulers govern, but may also (and not infrequently) shift the locus of power in ways that previous rulers find uncomfortable or (indeed) unacceptable (Friedman 1969, p. 47).

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