Law and development in crisis: an empirical challenge to the current theoretical frames


  • Antara Haldar University of Cambridge


This paper examines the current crisis in the field of law and development. It empirically demonstrates the limitations of the existent frameworks of analysis – the ‘law and economics’ and ‘law and society’ approaches. It does so through in-depth comparative case studies of two programmes – land-titling and microfinance – that illustrate the alternative approaches. While law and economics takes a fundamentally disjointed, Hayekian view of the relationship between the market and society, the formalist policy prescriptions that follow from this position fail – demonstrating the importance of embeddedness. The law and society approach – based on the Polanyian premise of markets embedded in society – yields richer institutional prescriptions in the short run, but also suffers from fetishising the social over the legal. A new economic sociology of law-based approach – combining the analytic and normative insights of law and society with the substantive learning and procedural rigour of law and economics – may be a way forward.