Many social scientists rely on the rule of law in their accounts of political or economic development. Many, however, simply equate law with a stable government capable of enforcing the rules generated by a political authority. As two decades of largely failed efforts to build the rule of law in poor and transition countries and continuing struggles to build international legal order demonstrate, we still do not understand how legal order is produced, especially in places where it does not already exist. We here canvas literature in the social sciences to identify the themes and gaps in the existing accounts. We conclude that this literature has failed to produce a microfoundational account of the phenomenon of legal order. We then discuss our recent effort to develop the missing microfoundations of legal order to provide a better framework for future work on the rule of law.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. Abbott KW, Snidal D. 2000. Hard and soft law in international governance. Int. Organ. 54:3421–56 [Google Scholar]
  2. Acemoglu D, Robinson J. 2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty New York: Crown
  3. Aristotle 1984. The Politics transl. C Lord Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press
  4. Baker G, Gibbons R, Murphy K. 2002. Relational contracts and the theory of the firm. Q. J. Econ. 117:39–83 [Google Scholar]
  5. Basu K. 2000. Prelude to Political Economy: A Study of the Social and Political Foundations of Economics New York: Oxford Univ. Press
  6. Becker G, Stigler G. 1974. Law enforcement, malfeasance, and compensation of enforcers. J. Leg. Stud. 3:11–18 [Google Scholar]
  7. Berkowitz D, Pistor K, Richard J-F. 2003. The transplant effect. Am. J. Comp. Law 51:163–203 [Google Scholar]
  8. Bohannan P. 1965. The differing realms of law. Am. Anthropol. 67:33–42 [Google Scholar]
  9. Bolton J. 2000. Is there really “law” in international affairs? Transnatl. Law. Contemp. Probl. 10:11–48 [Google Scholar]
  10. Botero JC, Ponce A. 2010. Measuring the rule of law World Justice Proj. Work. Pap. Ser., WPS No. 001, World Justice Proj.
  11. Bowles S, Gintis H. 2004. Strong reciprocity. Theor. Popul. Biol. 65:17–28 [Google Scholar]
  12. Boyd R, Gintis H, Bowles S. 2010. Coordinated punishment of defectors sustains cooperation and can proliferate when rare. Science 328:617–20 [Google Scholar]
  13. Boyd R, Gintis H, Bowles S, Richerson P. 2003. The evolution of altruistic punishment. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100:63531–35 [Google Scholar]
  14. Braithwaite J, Drahos P. 2000. Global Business Regulation Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
  15. Brooks R. 2003. The new imperialism: violence, norms, and the “rule of law.”. Mich. L. Rev. 1010:72275–340 [Google Scholar]
  16. Calvert R. 1995. Rational actors, equilibrium, and social institutions. Explaining Social Institutions J Knight, I Sened 57–93 Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. Mich. Press [Google Scholar]
  17. Cao L. 2007. Culture change. Va. J. Int. Law 47:357–412 [Google Scholar]
  18. Camerer C. 2003. Behavioral Game Theory Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press
  19. Carothers T. 2006. Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: In Search of Knowledge Washington, DC: Carnegie Endow. Int. Peace
  20. Chayes A, Chayes AH. 1998. The New Sovereignty: Compliance with International Regulatory Agreements Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press
  21. Chwe M. 2001. Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press
  22. Coase R. 1937. The nature of the firm. Economica 4:386–405 [Google Scholar]
  23. Cooter R. 1998. Expressive law and economics. J. Leg. Stud. 27:585–608 [Google Scholar]
  24. D'Amato A. 1985. Is international law really “law”?. Northwest. Univ. Law Rev. 79:5–61293–314 [Google Scholar]
  25. Dixit A. 2004. Lawlessness and Economics: Alternative Modes of Governance Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press
  26. Dworkin R. 1978. Taking Rights Seriously Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press
  27. Dworkin R. 1986. Law's Empire Cambridge, MA: Belknap
  28. Easterly W. 2006. The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good New York: Penguin
  29. Ellickson R. 1991. Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press
  30. Epstein L, Knight J. 1998. The Choices Justices Make Washington, DC: CQ
  31. Fehr E, Fischbacher U. 2004. Social norms and human cooperation. Trends Cogn. Sci. 8:4185–90 [Google Scholar]
  32. Fehr E, Gächter S. 2002. Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature 415:137–40 [Google Scholar]
  33. Fehr E, Schmidt K. 2006. The economics of fairness, reciprocity and altruism: experimental evidence and new theories. Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity: Foundations S Kolm, J Ythier 615–94 Amsterdam, Neth.: Elsevier [Google Scholar]
  34. Finnemore M, Sikkink K. 1998. International norm dynamics and political change. Int. Organ. 52:4887–917 [Google Scholar]
  35. Finnemore M, Toope S. 2001. Alternatives to “Legalization”: richer views of law and politics. Int. Organ. 55:3743–58 [Google Scholar]
  36. Finnis J. 1989. Law as co-ordination. Ratio Juris 2:97–104 [Google Scholar]
  37. Fleischacker S. 2004. On Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations: A Philosophical Companion Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  38. Franck TM. 1995. Fairness in International Law and Institutions Oxford, UK: Clarendon
  39. Friedman B. 2006. Taking law seriously. Perspect. Polit. 4:261–76 [Google Scholar]
  40. Fuller L. 1964. The Morality of Law New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press
  41. Gennaioli N, Shleifer A. 2007. The evolution of common law. J. Polit. Econ. 115:43–68 [Google Scholar]
  42. Gezelius S. 2002. Do norms count? State regulation and compliance in a Norwegian fishing community. Acta Soc. 45:305–14 [Google Scholar]
  43. Goldsmith J, Posner E. 2005. The Limits of International Law Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press
  44. Granovetter M. 1992. Economic institutions as social constructions: a framework for analysis. Acta Soc. 35:13–11 [Google Scholar]
  45. Greif A. 1989. Reputation and coalitions in medieval trade: evidence on the Maghribi traders. J. Econ. Hist. 49:857–82 [Google Scholar]
  46. Greif A. 1993. Contract enforceability and economic institutions in early trade: the Maghribi traders' coalition. Am. Econ. Rev. 83:525–48 [Google Scholar]
  47. Greif A. 1994. On the political foundations of the late medieval commercial revolution: Genoa during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. J. Econ. Hist. 54:2271–87 [Google Scholar]
  48. Greif A. 2006. Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
  49. Greif A, Milgrom P, Weingast B. 1994. Coordination, commitment, and enforcement: the case of the merchant guild. J. Polit. Econ. 102:745–76 [Google Scholar]
  50. Guzman A. 2008. How International Law Works: A Rational Choice Theory Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press
  51. Haas PM. 1989. Do regimes matter? Epistemic communities and Mediterranean pollution control. Int. Organ. 42:3377–403 [Google Scholar]
  52. Hadfield GK. 2008. The levers of legal design: institutional determinants of the quality of law. J. Comp. Econ. 36:43–73 [Google Scholar]
  53. Hadfield GK, Weingast BR. 2012. What is law? A coordination model of the characteristics of legal order. J. Leg. Anal. 4:2471–514 [Google Scholar]
  54. Hadfield G, Weingast BR. 2014. Constitutions as coordinating devices. Institutions, Property Rights, and Economic Growth: The Legacy of Douglass North, ed. S Galiani, I Sened Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  55. Hadfield G, Weingast BR. 2013. Law without the state: legal attributes and the coordination of decentralized collective punishment. J. Law Courts 1:13–34 [Google Scholar]
  56. Haggard S, MacIntyre A, Tiede L. 2008. The rule of law and economic development. Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 11:205–34 [Google Scholar]
  57. Hart HLA. 1961 (2012). The Concept of Law Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press, 3rd ed..
  58. Hathaway O, Shapiro S. 2011. Outcasting: enforcement in domestic and international law. Yale Law J. 121:2252–349 [Google Scholar]
  59. Hayek F. 1944 (2007). The Road to Serfdom Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press
  60. Hayek F. 1960. The Constitution of Liberty Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press
  61. Henrich J, Boyd R, Bowles S, Camerer C, Fehr E, Gintis H. 2004. Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from Fifteen Small-Scale Societies Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press
  62. Henrich J, McElreath R, Barr A, Ensminger J, Barrett C. et al. 2006. Costly punishment across human societies. Science 312:1767–70 [Google Scholar]
  63. Hoebel E. 1954 (2006). The Law of Primitive Man: A Study in Comparative Legal Dynamics Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2nd ed..
  64. Kelsen H. 1941. The pure theory of law and analytical jurisprudence. Harvard Law Rev. 55:144–70 [Google Scholar]
  65. Keohane R. 1986. Reciprocity in international relations. Int. Organ. 40:11–27 [Google Scholar]
  66. Keohane R. 1997. International relations and international law: two optics. Harvard Int. Law Rev. 38:2487–502 [Google Scholar]
  67. Klein B. 1996. Why hold-ups occur: the self-enforcing range of contractual relations. Econ. Inq. 34:3444–63 [Google Scholar]
  68. Kleinfeld R. 2006. Competing definitions of the rule of law. Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: In Search of Knowledge T Carothers 31–74 Washington, DC: Carnegie Endow. Int. Peace [Google Scholar]
  69. Koh HH. 1997. Why do nations obey international law?. Yale Law J. 106:82599–659 [Google Scholar]
  70. La Porta R, Lopez-de-Silanes F, Shleifer A. 2008. The economic consequences of legal origins. J. Econ. Lit. 46:2285–332 [Google Scholar]
  71. La Porta R, Lopez-de-Silanes F, Shleifer A, Vishny J. 1997. Legal determinants of external finance. J. Financ. 52:1131–50 [Google Scholar]
  72. La Porta R, Lopez-de-Silanes F, Shleifer A, Vishny J. 1998. Law and finance. J. Polit. Econ. 106:1113–55 [Google Scholar]
  73. Lax J. 2012. The new judicial politics of legal doctrine. Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 14:131–57 [Google Scholar]
  74. Levi M. 1997. Consent, Dissent, and Patriotism New York: Cambridge Univ. Press
  75. Levi M, Sacks A. 2009. Legitimating beliefs: concepts and measures. Regul. Gov. 3:311–33 [Google Scholar]
  76. Levin J. 2003. Relational incentive contracts. Am. Econ. Rev. 93:3835–57 [Google Scholar]
  77. Locke J. 1690 (1980). Second Treatise on Government Indianapolis, IN: Hackett
  78. MacLeod W, Malcomson J. 1988. Reputation and hierarchy in dynamic models of employment. J. Polit. Econ. 96:4832–54 [Google Scholar]
  79. MacLeod W, Malcomson J. 1989. Implicit contracts, incentive compatibility, and involuntary unemployment. Econometrica 57:2447–80 [Google Scholar]
  80. Malinowski B. 1926 (2013). Crime and Custom in Savage Society New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction
  81. McAdams R. 2000. A focal point theory of expressive law. Va. Law Rev. 86:1649–729 [Google Scholar]
  82. McCubbins M, Rodriguez D. 2006. The judiciary and the role of law. Handbook of Political Economy B Weingast, D Wittman New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  83. McCubbins M, Rodriguez D, Weingast B. 2010. The rule of law unplugged. Emory Law J. 59:61455–94 [Google Scholar]
  84. McNollgast 2007. The political economy of law. See Polinsky & Shavel 2007 1651–1738
  85. Milgrom P, North D, Weingast B. 1990. The role of institutions in the revival of trade: the medieval law merchant, private judges, and the Champagne fairs. Econ. Polit. 2:1–23 [Google Scholar]
  86. Moore S. 1978. Law as Process: An Anthropological Approach Oxford, UK: James Currey, 2nd ed..
  87. Myerson R. 2004. Justice, institutions, and multiple equilibria. Chicago J. Int. Law 5:91–107 [Google Scholar]
  88. North D. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
  89. North D, Weingast B. 1989. Constitutions and commitment: the evolution of institutions governing public choice in seventeenth-century England. J. Econ. Hist. 49:4803–32 [Google Scholar]
  90. Ordeshook P. 1992. Constitutional stability. Const. Polit. Econ. 3:2137–75 [Google Scholar]
  91. Ostrom E. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
  92. Paternoster R, Simpson S. 1996. Sanction threat and appeals to morality: testing a rational choice model of corporate crime. Law Soc. Rev. 30:549–83 [Google Scholar]
  93. Polinsky M, Shavell S. 2007. Handbook of Law and Economics Amsterdam, Neth.: Elsevier
  94. Pospisil L. 1958. Kapauku Papuans and Their Law New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press
  95. Postema G. 1982. Coordination and convention at the foundation of law. J. Leg. Stud. 11:165–203 [Google Scholar]
  96. Przeworski A. 1991. Democracy and the Market New York: Cambridge Univ. Press
  97. Raustiala K, Slaughter A-M. 2002. International law, international relations and compliance. Handbook of International Relations W Carlsnaes, T Risse, BA Simmons London, UK: Sage [Google Scholar]
  98. Raz J. 2009. The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press, 2nd ed..
  99. Rodrik D. 2007. One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press
  100. Ryo E. 2006. Through the back door: applying theories of legal compliance to illegal immigration during the Chinese exclusion era. Law Soc. Inq. 31:109–46 [Google Scholar]
  101. Ryo E. 2013. Deciding to cross: norms and economics of unauthorized migration. Am. Soc. Rev. 78:4574–603 [Google Scholar]
  102. Slaughter A-M. 2004. A New World Order Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press
  103. Smulovitz C. 2003. How can the rule of law rule? Cost imposition through decentralized mechanisms. Democracy and the Rule of Law J Maravall, A Przeworski Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  104. Stromseth J, Wippman D, Brooks R. 2006. Can Might Make Rights?: Building the Rule of Law After Military Interventions Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
  105. Sugden R. 1986 (2005). The Economics of Rights, Cooperation and Welfare New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd ed..
  106. Tamanaha B. 2011. The primacy of society and the failures of law and development. Cornell Int. Law J. 44:209–47 [Google Scholar]
  107. Telser L. 1980. A theory of self-enforcing agreements. J. Bus. 53:127–44 [Google Scholar]
  108. Tiller E, Cross F. 2006. What is legal doctrine?. Northwest. Univ. Law Rev. 100:1517–34 [Google Scholar]
  109. Trebilcock M, Daniels R. 2008. Rule of Law Reform and Development: Charting the Fragile Path of Progress Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar
  110. Tyler T. 1990. Why People Obey the Law: Procedural Justice, Legitimacy and Compliance New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press
  111. Tyler T, Huo Y. 2002. Trust in the Law: Encouraging Public Cooperation with the Police and Courts New York: Russell Sage
  112. U. N. Comm. Leg. Empower. Poor 2008. Making the Law Work for Everyone 1 Report of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor New York: United Nations
  113. Waldron J. 2008. The concept and the rule of law. Ga. Law Rev. 43:1–61 [Google Scholar]
  114. Waldron J. 2011. The rule of law and the importance of procedure. Getting to the Rule of Law (NOMOS) JE Fleming 3–31 New York: NYU Press [Google Scholar]
  115. Weber M. 1947 (1964). The Theory of Social and Economic Organization New York: Free
  116. Weber M. 1956 (1978). Economy and Society 2 transl. G Roth, C Wittch. Berkeley: Univ. Calif. Press
  117. Weingast B. 1995. The economic role of political institutions: market-preserving federalism and economic development. J. Law Econ. Organ. 11:1–31 [Google Scholar]
  118. Weingast B. 1997. The political foundations of democracy and the rule of law. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 91:2245–63 [Google Scholar]
  119. Williamson O. 1985. The Economic Institutions of Capitalism New York: Free
  120. World Bank 2003. Legal and Judicial Reform: Strategic Directions Washington, DC: World Bank
  121. Xu G. 2011. The role of law in economic growth: a literature review. J. Econ. Surv. 25:5833–71 [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error