Research Handbook on Political Economy and Law
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Research Handbook on Political Economy and Law

Edited by Ugo Mattei and John D. Haskell

Events such as the global financial crisis have helped reveal that the drivers and contours of governance on a national and international level remain a mystery in many respects. Set in this context, this timely Research Handbook is the first to explicitly address the constitutive relationship between law and political economy. With scholarly contributions from diverse disciplinary and geographic backgrounds, this authoritative book covers, in three parts, topics surrounding money and markets, the relations of organization, and commodities, land and resources.
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Chapter 21: Law and development: a history in three moments

Arpita Gupta


In the aftermath of decolonization, the field of law and development quickly became the privileged vocabulary for addressing the economic (and, to a certain extent, socio-political) inequality between former colonized countries and Western industrial states. If there is agreement as to the immediate challenge, the field is marked by long-standing disagreements that range from how reforms should be implemented to the very function of law and notions of the ‘economy.’ These disagreements can generally be divided into three periods where a specific configuration of ideas and policies dominated the field: the 1950s–1960s, the 1980s–2000, and approximately 2000 to the present. This chapter traces the evolution of the mainstream law and development field, mapping the argumentative logic that informed these various moments and identifying the conditions that facilitated the transitions in policy thought and practice. The first law and development moment held sway during the 1950s and 1960s. The reforms under this moment were propagated predominantly through aid and assistance programs funded by the US state agencies, as well as US-based private non-profit organizations. For instance, under the aegis of the Foreign Assistance Act (1970), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sought to promote a range of economic and political development efforts in the former colonized world (or, what is often problematically described as, the ‘third world’ or ‘developing’ countries).

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