International Journal of Law in Context


Prepare your indicators: economics imperialism on the shores of law and development

Amanda Perry-Kessarisa1 c1*

a1 School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London


This article explores the influence of economics on the demand for, and deployment of, indicators in the context of the World Bank's investment climate campaign. This campaign is characterised by an emphasis on marketisation, mathematisation and quantification, which are respectively the normative, analytical and empirical approaches of choice in mainstream economics. The article concludes that economics generally, and indicators in particular, have brought a certain discipline and energy to the field of law and development. But this ‘progress’ has often been at the expense of non-economic values and interests, and even of our ability to mourn their loss.

(Online publication November 11 2011)


* Email: This research has been supported by a British Academy Research Development Award, ‘The Economic Approach to Law and Development: Principles, Effects, Defects’. Thanks to Benedict Kingsbury, Sally Merry and Kevin Davis who caused me to write this article by inviting me to their Conference on Indicators as a Technology of Governance, NYU, 13–14 September 2010; for comments from David Campbell, Sabine Frerichs, Richard Messick, Chris Perry, David Schneiderman and Mathias Siems; to the organisers of and participants in the following events, during which I presented some of the ideas underlying this article: Workshop on ‘Toward Responsive Rule of Law: Actors and accountability’, Hague Institute for Internationalization of Law, The Hague July 2010; Round table ‘Success in Law and Development: Evaluating the Conventional Wisdom Using Evidence from the Field’, Law and Society Association, Chicago, May 2010; SLSA Workshop on Socializing Economic Relationships, Oxford, May 2010; International Economic Law Stream, SLSA 2010, Bristol. I am also grateful to an anonymous reviewer for a number of useful suggestions for improvement.