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Introduction to Law, Society and Development


Admission requirements

No prerequisites to take this course. This course is part of the track ‘Law, Society and Development’


Serious efforts to meet global challenges will sooner or later encounter the limits of law in developing countries. About 125 states in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America are generally referred to as ‘developing’ or ‘non-western’ countries. This course addresses the formation and functioning of the legal systems of these countries, notably in their relation to society and its development. Law and legal institutions should regulate people’s security, economic advancement, social justice and environmental protection, to mention just a few goals of development. This raises several important socio-legal questions. To what extent are such legal systems able to implement standards set by international law, to provide access and remedies to justice-seekers, and to support the development of society? To understand the capacities of these systems to make laws, implement them, and adjudicate conflicts, we will have to know what they look like, whether they consist of legal transplants from the West, or perhaps are based on other conceptions of law like customary law, divine Islamic law, or other traditions? How does state law relate to ‘non-state law’? We also need to understand how legal systems operate in a heterogeneous and rapidly changing society. Economic, political and social problems have their impact on the effectiveness of legal and governance institutions. This begs the overarching question of this course. In as far as legal systems do not operate pro-poor, is there anything to be done about that? In other words, what is the scope for strengthening legal systems and promoting the rule of law and human rights in the developing world? This course pays particular attention to different notions of justice at international, national and local arenas, to transitional justice as means to attain or sustain newly brokered peace accords, and to poor people’s ability to access justice.

Course objectives

Course aims:

  • To understand the complicated relationship between law and development.

  • To acquire insight into the formal features of law and governance prevalent in many developing countries as well as into the actual working of these formal systems

  • To develop a critical understanding of the prevailing conceptual framework in this field of study

Learning Outcomes

  • To critically discuss case studies, while making use of the conceptual framework

  • To evaluate a legal policy

  • To present an argument to a group

  • To summarize and critically review a book


Please see the LUC website:

Mode of instruction

Each week will consist of one plenary lecture and one seminar. Through seminar debate, PowerPoint presentation and coursework students are given the opportunity to present and defend their ideas within an academic setting, and to take part in group projects.

Plenary lectures

  • 2-hour, 7 weeks


  • 2-hour, 7 weeks

  • Seminars and the required assignments provide the students the opportunity to apply the newly gained knowledge, as well as train their academic skills.

Tuesday Lectures
For the lectures of this course there will be required reading. The lecturer will put her power point slides on Blackboard after the lecture. At the end of each lecture the assignments for the following seminar will be elaborated upon.

Thursday Seminars
For the seminars of this course there will be required reading. The students will read the prescribed literature and prepare the assignments, which are to be discussed in class.

Assessment method

Individual Assignments
During this course, every student writes two individual papers of 1000 words each (excluding footnotes and bibliography) in response to the seminar questions for that particular week, as specified. Students are to hand in their papers to their lecturer via e-mail before the start of the Thursday seminars.

Class participation: discussions of literature, group presentations, and seminar discussions
The first part of the Thursday seminars will be used to work together in groups on the topic. The second part will be used for plenary group presentations, followed by discussions. Students’ participation and performance during the seminars as well as during the lectures – especially with regard to discussion of the literature – will be assessed.
Final Group Essay – book review
Students are divided into groups of 4. The final group essay should count max. 5.000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. Each member of the group will discuss one academic article individually; the group as a whole writes an introduction and conclusion to the book review. Group members each get one individual grade plus one group grade.
Individual paper 1 (1000 words): 20% of final grade
Individual paper 2 (1000 words): 20% of final grade
Class participation: 20% of final grade
Book review (5000 words) 40% of final grade (of which the group part and the individual part each weigh 50 %)


This course is supported by a Blackboard site.

Reading list

The literature for this course will be compiled in a hard copy reader. In the case that material can be downloaded from the web or the e-library of Leiden University, students will need to retrieve and print the literature themselves. This will be specified on Blackboard.
In addition, Students need to buy their own copy of the following book (Amazon has very cheap copies):
De Soto, Hernando de, The mystery of legal capital: Why capitalism triumphs in the west and fails everywhere else. London: Black Swan.


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information

Janine Ubink:

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Introduction
Lecture: Introduction to law, society and development
Seminar: The requirements of the rule of law and population policy in China

Week 2: Legal pluralism I
Lecture: The historical relationship between local and statutory legal systems
Seminar: Regulating customary practices: the protection of widows in Ghana’s Intestate Succession Law

Week 3: Legal pluralism II
Lecture: Contemporary interaction between international law, national law and local ‘non-state’ law
Seminar: Regulating marriage: the case of Indonesia’s marriage law.

Week 4: Transitional justice I
Lecture: Local and global legal responses to post-conflict situations
Seminar: Truth and reconciliation – a new beginning?

Week 5: Transitional justice II
Lecture: The International Criminal Court
Seminar: The International Criminal Court – African perspectives

Week 6: Access to justice I
Lecture: The rule of law in a patronage democracy
Seminar: Development aid and legal empowerment in India and Indonesia

Week 7: Access to justice II
Lecture: Extra-legality as an obstacle to sustainable and profitable land use
Seminar: A critical analysis of Hernando De Soto’s legalization thesis

Preparation for first session

To prepare for the first lecture, please read the literature mentioned on blackboard