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“Law and Development” in Post-Revolutionary Egypt

October 12, 2012

There’s a new article on the Egyptian revolution in the latest issue of Third World Quarterly. Entitled “Counter-revolution by Ideology? Law and development’s vision(s) for post-revolutionary Egypt”

“Law and development” was a movement promoted in the 1960s by the Ford Foundation and USAID to reform legal systems in developing countries to assist democratization, economic development, and human rights (Trubeck and Santos 2006).

In part thanks to this movement, many contradictory laws, rules and regulations apply to  interactions between states and non-state parties like NGOs and international institutions. Dispute settlement mechanisms like international courts have been set up to enforce compliance with some of these laws.

International law is complex and erratically applied. Poor countries and countries in crisis are most likely to be signatories to agreements to abide by international law (often because such agreement is a requirement for international loans), but these are the very countries where legal structures are weak and laws are unenforceable.

This article looks at law and development efforts in Egypt through the post-Nasser era and into the new Egyptian revolution.

The abstract is as follows:

Law and development, as both movement and practice, has led a tumultuous life: a hurried zenith cut short by a fatal critique followed by an opportunistic resurrection. The name alone is sufficient to trigger a range of reactions, extending from the complimentary to the condemnatory.

In this article I track law and development’s evolution via an examination of its role in the remodeling of Egyptian society in the post-Nasser era. While the 2011 revolution has encouraged institutions such as USAID to hasten their legal reform efforts, I argue that these are more akin to counter-revolution by ideology than genuine revolution by law.

Nevertheless, rather than relegate the movement to the annals of imperial intrigue, I conclude by proposing the use of legal pluralism to revive, and possibly ignite, law and development’s emancipatory potential.

For more scholarly articles on the Egyptian Revolution please see the bibliography.


Al-Attar, Mohsen. 2012. Counter-revolution by Ideology? Law and development’s vision(s) for post-revolutionary Egypt. Third World Quarterly 33(9): 1611-1629.

Trubek, David and Alvaro Santos, eds. 2006. The New Law and Economic Development: A Critical Appraisal. Cambridge University Press.

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