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Political and Economic Foundations of Law


Admission requirements

None, but Comparative Justice Systems is recommended.


Most jurists take law for granted and consider it as a neutral body of rules and institutions. This view does not take account of the fact that that law is the result of political-economic processes. Law is the main instrument the state has to shape itself, the economy and society – therefore law is profoundly political in its formation and application, and its form and substance are to a large extent determined by economic considerations. At the same time, once created and administered law influences political and economic processes and thus affects the very spheres it emerges from. Perhaps nowhere are such processes more visible than in Asia, where law’s role of ensuring political obedience and economic growth has been particularly pronounced.

The present course explores how law is shaped by political and economic considerations and how it relates to economic development and socio-political stability. Starting with a theoretical introduction it will subsequently focus on two major Asian polities – China and Indonesia – to illustrate, contextualise and deepen the theoretical part. The socio-legal approach we use helps us in understanding the key influence that political and economic considerations have upon legal systems and how legal systems feed back into the political and economic spheres.

The course starts with a general introduction about the relation between law and political-economic development. This part is followed by the two case studies of China and Indonesia, which are taught in such a way as to stimulate comparison. In the case of China political and economic political features that have influenced law in particular are the idea of a ‘socialist market economy’ and the relations between law and party rule. The case of Indonesia focuses on the use of law to promote economic growth and distribute the benefits in a system with a weakly developed rule of law and a democracy that offers broad opportunities for economic elites to wield power.

By combining the insights from the general part with the case studies, students will be better able to memorise, contextualise and apply theoretical insights concerning the relations between law, politics and the economy. They will moreover be able to understand and explain contemporary and future developments in law and the political economy of China and Indonesia, but thet will also learn to apply their insights to explain situations in other countries.

Course Objectives

After having taken this course students will be able:

  • to explain what the main elements of the relation between law and political-economic development are, both orally and in writing;

  • to illustrate this relation by examples of the role law plays in Asian economic and political development

  • to explain how the political economy in China and Indonesia shapes their legal systems.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Each week will consist of two seminars, which combine lecturing, student’s presentations with discussions. Through seminar discussion, group presentations, assignments, and coursework students are given the opportunity to present and discuss their ideas within an academic setting.

Assessment Method

  • Final essay proposal video & participation in debates: 20%

  • Four short reaction papers (300 words each): 20%

  • Final essay (2000 words): 25%

  • Take-home exam: 35%

Reading list

The literature for this course consists mostly of academic articles, specified in the course syllabus. The literature will be linked on Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Prof.dr. Adriaan Bedner,