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economic progress; knowledge; Law & Development; Legal Pluralism; modernity; rule of law; Transitional Justice


This chapter explores the nature, status and role of knowledge, expertise and epistemology in the context of law & development. Placing a particular emphasis on the way that prior perceptions of the functions of the state influence the conceptualization of development policies, the chapter formulates a critique of approaches to development programs that export ‘learned lessons’ from state change and state transformation into development contexts without paying due regard to the differences in socio-economic and legal governance structures on the ground. The chapter argues against a number of existing positions with regard to the approach to be taken vis-à-vis legal and economic assistance in developing countries, including those that too simply assume a gap between ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ conceptions of societal governance. Furthermore, the chapter critically engages with approaches that seek to import a particular, ‘Western’ conception of the rule of law to developing countries without taking into account the complex trajectory marking the evolution of political and legal governance from the colonial to post-colonial stage. Knowledge as a governance instrument becomes a crucial variable in this regard as it allows for a more adequate study of the way in which choices are made between different bodies of theories and information governing the development policy. The chapter furthermore juxtaposes law & development with the increasingly important research and policy field of transitional justice in order to highlight the overlaps between both fields.