Theatre of the Rule of Law: Transnational Legal Intervention in Theory and Practice

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Theatre of the Rule of Law presents the first sustained critique of global rule of law promotion – an expansive industry at the heart of international development, post-conflict reconstruction and security policy today. While successful in articulating and disseminating an effective global public policy, rule of law promotion has largely failed in its stated objectives of raising countries out of poverty and taming violent conflict. Furthermore, in its execution, this work deviates sharply from ‘the rule of law' as commonly conceived. To explain this, Stephen Humphreys draws on the history of the rule of law as a concept, examples of legal export during colonial times, and a spectrum of contemporary interventions by development agencies and international organisations. Rule of law promotion is shown to be a kind of theatre, the staging of a morality tale about the good life, intended for edification and emulation, but blind to its own internal contradictions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'A fascinating study of the alchemy by which ideas come to be performed as power. Everyone interested in the sociology of ideas in transnational political life should read this book.' David Kennedy, Harvard Law School

'The focal force of law in 'the new imperialism' has for long needed this revelatory depiction and analysis. Stephen Humphreys adroitly fuses a generosity of breadth with telling detail and the outcome is both convincing and enviably engaging.' Peter Fitzpatrick, Birkbeck, University of London

'A bracing, innovative, and rewarding journey to the heart of a significant intellectual and practical puzzle - with rule of law development all the rage in international policy circles, do we actually know what the rule of law is? Humphreys moves with commendable ease between conceptual frameworks and policy practice, avoiding pat criticisms and or easy answers, driven by a spirit of restless, honest inquiry.' Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

'Rarely is the practice of legal policy given a voice as erudite, thoughtful and attentive. Humphreys has written an important book, noteworthy for its nuance and insight and for the lucid elegance of its prose. Theatre of the Rule of Law should be read by anyone engaged with or concerned about rule of law promotion, and by all those interested in the global transmission and enactment of ideas about and through law.' Fleur Johns, University of Sydney

'In Theatre of the Rule of Law … Stephen Humphreys provides a balanced, erudite critique of both the concept of the rule of law and the practice of its promotion by international development agencies … Development scholars and practitioners alike will benefit from [this book], as will interested laypersons. It should be essential reading for staffs of multilateral, bilateral, nongovernmental, consulting and policy institutions concerned with law and development … Even development and policy professionals whose expertise lies elsewhere - public health, land use, private enterprise, natural resources, gender and foreign aid in general, for instance - will profit from a greater understanding of the limits and opportunities of the interface of law with their respective fields … [This] is an important book for our times. And it will remain highly relevant for many years to come.' Stephen Golub, University of California, Berkeley

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Stephen Humphreys is Lecturer in Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He previously worked at the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva, as Research Director, and before that at the Open Society Institute in New York and Budapest. He writes regularly on international law, in both academic and policy contexts, and is the editor of Human Rights and Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

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Table of Contents

Part I. Parameters: 'Rule of Law' as a Term of Art: 1. Society;
2. Economy;
3. Polity;
Interlude. Precursors: colonial legal intervention;
Part II. Theatre of the Rule of Law: 4. Market;
5. State;
6. Public;
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