Journal article

"An Unqualified Human Good"? On Rule of Law, Globalization, and Imperialism

M Brown

Law & Social Inquiry | Wiley | Published : 2018


Forty years ago, E. P. Thompson praised the English rule of law forged during the bloody and fractious eighteenth century, calling it not only “an unqualified human good,” but also a “cultural achievement of universal significance.” This article examines colonial rule-of-law development as another example of law and state building. Both have relevance for contemporary rule-of-law programming in the Global South where Thompson’s “cultural achievement” has resisted fabrication by legal technicians. The problems faced today are not new, for colonial rulers also engaged with complex indigenous norms and forms and sought to balance universal principles with political control imperatives. Contra a..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Funding Acknowledgements

Mark Brown is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law, University of Sheffield and an Honorary Senior Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. His work spans topics in punishment, justice, and law, with a particular emphasis on historical, comparative, and colonial/postcolonial studies. early version of this article's argument was presented at the University of New South Wales Law School in Sydney, Australia. The author benefited from discussions with participants at that seminar and thanks David Brown and Lisa Ford in particular. The article has been substantially improved by comments on early drafts by Martin Krygier, Michael Woolcock, and Brian Tamanaha, and later by the journal's anonymous reviewers. Regarding the difficulties of rule-of-law programming and potential relevance of historical case studies, the author was particularly assisted by discussions with Andrew Harrington in Dili, Timor-Leste, and Rowland Cole in Juba, South Sudan. Research toward this article was supported in part by a Small Research Grant from the School of Law, University of Sheffield, UK, and the research assistance of Jen Clarke.