Modern efforts to promote legal reform as a development strategy date back to the late 1950s and 1960s. This is the period in which many former colonies became independent and developed country governments and multilateral agencies were widely committed to some version of modernization theory, which included modernizing a developing country’s substantive laws and legal institutions. This period of law and development scholarship and policy activism is often referred to as the “first law and development movement”.1
More recently, with the emergence and increasing influence of institutional theories of development in academic and policy circles, there has been a new or revived interest in the relationship between law and development. As we noted in Chapter 3, recent empirical studies of the impact of governance on development find dramatic impacts of the rule of law on development outcomes. Reflecting this view of the relationship between the rule of law and development, beginning in the 1990s there has been a massive surge in development assistance for law reform projects in developing and transition economies involving investments of many billions of dollars. This instrumentalist view of the relationship between law and development is what we call an economic perspective of law and development.
Alongside this economic perspective, there is also a wide array of principled justifications to promote rule of law reforms in developing countries. These justifications have gained a great deal of prominence recently, in what some would consider a “new law and development movement”.2 Unlike...
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