Legal theory has a long and celebrated tradition of exploring law's relationship to inequality. Development theory, less so. This panel fosters an initial conversation between studies of law and development, and law and inequality, that emerge from various critical legal and realist traditions.
From Marxists to legal realists, and legal liberals to legal institutionalists, lawyers have developed nuanced accounts of the relationship between law and inequality. They have debated whether, how and why law and inequality co-produce, mutually disrupt, or do very little to each other. In doing so, they have asked what is special (or not) about law as an institution, the proper relationship between law and political economy, and the role of empirical social sciences in understanding and changing law. In the development literature, by contrast, the relationship between law and inequality is not so well understood. Rather, law is generally articulated either as a specific set of institutional forms to be assessed by lawyers (like courts or constitutions), or as an instrument to be analyzed by social scientists (like any other motor of political, economic, or social change). In other words, law is either thin and autonomous from drivers of inequality, or thick and subordinate to them. Yet as legal scholars have shown, it is important to uncover the complex relationships between legal form and legal instrumentality to interrogate the politics of law and inequality. This panel aims to do so, exploring the links between law, development, and inequality. It seeks theoretical and empirical papers that bring legal insights to bear on debates around development and inequality; that introduce development issues to existing legal approaches to law and inequality; and that provide methodological insights into the role of the social sciences in thinking about law, development, and inequality.