This chapter introduces the World Bank’s World Development Report 2017: Governance and Law. I argue that it should be understood as the Bank setting out a new conceptual approach to rule of law reform. To put the report’s novelty into context, I critique prevailing attempts to contextualise rule of law reform at the Bank. I instead present the report as a field-constituting document – that is, a document that attempts to organise the debates in the field. I also relate the report’s organisation of the field to the Bank’s own organisation of its rule of law reform work. I set out the beginning of a research agenda to ‘de-homogenise’ the Bank and understand the idiosyncratic outcomes of the report, in particular how debates about rule of law reform are socially organised within the Bank, and thus how the report will shape rule of law reform in years to come.
This chapter explores the emergence and implications of a new type of legal expertise in development. This expertise, found in a set of contemporary rule of law and governance reformers, openly denies its own capacity for knowledge about the institutions it purports to reform. Referring to it as ‘expert ignorance’, this chapter provides some initial methodological and analytical foundations for its study. The chapter problematizes the purchase over expert ignorance of existing sociological modes of studying expertise. It then draws on the emerging literature on the sociology of ignorance for insights and to develop a methodological apparatus. The chapter applies this apparatus to problem-driven iterative adaptation (PDIA), a recent effort to formalize expert ignorance in development practice. It argues that PDIA shows the importance of sociologizing the specific ways in which PDIA tries to inculcate within reformers, and organize a specific sensibility towards institutional reform. The chapter concludes with some broader reflections on how and why sociologically inclined scholars of global governance might study expert ignorance.