Mariana Prado (Toronto Law) asks What is Law and Development?
ABSTRACT: Law & Development studies have been growing in the past few years, after having its death declared in the 1070s. There is, however, very little clarity as to what this field of study encompasses or whether it is a field at all. Under the label of Law & Development one can find a wide variety of studies, approaches, analyses and topics. Some studies focus on formal institutions, discussing how enforcement of contracts, protection of property rights, and an independent judiciary protect investors and improve economic growth in developing countries. Others have not focused on economic development, but instead on how laws to protect women from abuses in the family and to create quotas to guarantee their participation in the public sphere have been largely ineffective due to deeply embedded social norms and value that cannot be changed by legislation (at least not from one day to the next). Still others have criticized the Law & Development discourse as another source of imperialism and dominance that justify senseless legal transplants from the North to the South.
What brings all these studies together under one label? What is it that one should know, if one is looking for a concise summary of what this field of study encompasses? These are the questions that I will try to answer in this essay. The read should be forewarned that the title may be slightly misleading, as the paper will not provide comprehensive and conclusive answers to the question “What is Law & Development?” but hopefully it will offer a starting point for a deeper inquiry. Most importantly, I hope readers will take this as an invitation to explore this field in greater depth.