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Law and Development: Theory and Practice


The field of Law and Development studies positions itself at a highly interesting, yet academically challenging juncture: What is the relationship between law and social and economic development? For most scholars of Law and Development, this question itself tends to raise more questions than answers: What conceptions of law are we actually talking about? And should the notion of ‘development’ be critically re-appropriated beyond modernized ideals of economic growth? Or can there be a minimum core definition in order to create a general theory for the field, which it has been lacking ever since David Trubek and Marc Galanter set its foundations?

At the international conference on ‘Law and Development: Theory and Practice’, co-organized by the Law and Development Institute, the Chair for Public and Comparative Law at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Prof. Philipp Dann), and De Gruyter, scholars and practitioners from the Global North and South tried to approach these questions. I would like to provide three insights from the conference in order to kick-off this symposium: Firstly, the field’s interdisciplinary openness as well as its geographical and legal plurality can be an analytical asset rather than a barrier. Secondly, a true academic dialogue between the Global North and the Global South needs to be strengthened, not just as a matter of formality, but as a matter of perspective and methodological identity. And thirdly, theory and practice can both gain significantly from each other’s insights, particularly in a field that does not just seek to analytically describe phenomena in abstract terms, but actually make a difference on the ground.

This symposium will include four contributions: Wouter Vandenhole will argue for heterodoxy beyond the notion of different ‘moments’ in Law and Development scholarship. Elizabeth Bakibinga-Gaswaga will address possibilities to ensure the effectiveness of rule of law programs from the perspective of a practitioner. Florian Hoffmann analyzes the recent turn to accountability-oriented governance within development cooperation, and Celine Tan will review and assess the contributions and limitations of Law and Development scholarship in relation to the constitution of the international economy and global economic governance.

We look forward to all questions and remarks.


Thomas Dollmaier is PhD-Candidate and researcher at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.


Cite as: Thomas Dollmaier, “Law and Development: Theory and Practice”, Völkerrechtsblog, 12 July 2018, doi: 10.17176/20180712-110427-0.

Thomas Dollmaier

Thomas Dollmaier is a PhD candidate at Berlin’s Humboldt University and editor at Völkerrechtsblog.

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