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Rule of Law; Legal Pluralism; Post-colonialism; World Bank; Orientalism; Legal Transplants; Empire


Despite hundreds of “Rule of Law” projects at the World Bank and a host of research into the foundations and content of the Rule of Law, we are still nowhere near an altogether satisfactory definition. While the Rule of Law is repeatedly being referred to in ‘legal assistance’ and ‘law reform’ projects and lives as a guiding principle in constitutions around the world, we don’t seem able to settle on a commonly agreed-upon approach to its nature and institutional form. In this context, the Rule of Law provides an opportunity to engage critically with the differences in perception and bias from which participants in the debate define and situate the principle and its underlying values. This short paper argues for a legal pluralist understanding of the Rule of Law as a set of selective institutional experiences and normative contentions which look very different when studied across time and space. Complementing some of the work that has been done in post-colonial studies and by TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law) scholars in law, the ‘transnationalization of the rule of law’ might be one of the important next frontiers in deconstructing Western and Northern narratives of legal ordering.

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