Research Handbook on Global Justice and International Economic Law

Research Handbook on Global Justice and International Economic Law

Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series

Edited by John Linarelli

The fairness of institutions of global economic governance ranks among the most pressing issues of our time. Most approaches to understanding the complex structure of treaties and intergovernmental organizations such as the WTO tend to uncritically accept an economic focus, highlighting gains from trade and the merits of progressive trade and investment liberalization. While the economic arguments are compelling, other ways of thinking about the roles of these institutions have received less attention. The Research Handbook fills this gap by offering a substantial interdisciplinary examination of the normative and policy underpinnings of the international economic order.

Chapter 11: Law, rights and development

John Linarelli

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, international economic law, trade law, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights


This chapter provides an intellectual history of the field of “law and development,” a loosely conceptualized field of inquiry which broadly speaking, focuses on the role of law in the development of states and societies. In its beginnings in the 1960s, the field was focused on the “modernization” of societies through law. In the immediate post-Cold War period of the 1990s, its focus was on economic development and economic growth. The field in its current stage still maintains a predominant focus on economic development, though it has been experiencing something of a turn towards using more comprehensive measures of human development which focus on capabilities. This chapter is not so much about development of societies as a subject in its own right, but on the more specific question of the role of law in the development of societies. How one approaches law and development depends on one’s conception of the ends of development. In this sense, law has an instrumental value. Its importance relates to achieving some goal other than rule of law as its own value. The first law and development thinkers were American legal scholars working at a time when modernization theory was at its most prominent and in a post-American Legal Realist intellectual context in American legal scholarship in which law was seen as an instrument of social change. Their focus was on modernizing societies, where law served as an instrument of change. The modernization movement was prevalent from the 1950s and lapsed in the early 1970s.

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