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Legal empowerment and group-based inequality

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  • Rachel M. Gisselquist

Abstract

Legal empowerment has become widely accepted in development policy circles as an approach to addressing poverty and exclusion. At the same time, it has received relatively little attention from political scientists and sociologists working on overlapping and closely related topics. Research on legal empowerment has been largely applied, with its clearest grounding in the fields of law and economics. This is an introductory/framing paper for a collection of studies on legal empowerment and group-based inequality to be published in a special issue of the Journal of Development Studies. It provides a brief introduction to legal empowerment and advances two broad arguments. First, that an ethnic group-focused approach is a useful starting point in considering the impact of legal empowerment and other development interventions. Second, that the state, via the law, contributes to ethnic inequalities in four broad ways—via its written laws, via their implementation and actual practice, through historical legacies of law and practice, and through the ethnic hegemony embedded in the system. Thinking about legal empowerment initiatives within this framework provides understanding of both their potential and their limitations.

Suggested Citation

  • Rachel M. Gisselquist, 2018. "Legal empowerment and group-based inequality," WIDER Working Paper Series 039, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:wp2018-39
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, Randomization, and Learning about Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 424-455, June.
    2. Daniel M. Brinks, 2016. "Access to what? Legal agency and access to justice for indigenous peoples in Latin America," WIDER Working Paper Series 138, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    3. Lant Pritchett & Michael Woolcock & Matt Andrews, 2013. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 1-18, January.
    4. Scott D. Taylor, 2016. "Business rights and ethnic exclusion in sub-Saharan Africa: Addressing group-based inequality through business rights reform," WIDER Working Paper Series 153, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    5. Gisselquist, Rachel & Niño-Zarazúa, Miguel, 2013. "What can experiments tell us about how to improve governance?," MPRA Paper 49300, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Selway, Joel Sawat, 2011. "The Measurement of Cross-cutting Cleavages and Other Multidimensional Cleavage Structures," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 19(01), pages 48-65, December.
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    9. Lant Pritchett & Justin Sandefur, 2015. "Learning from Experiments When Context Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 471-475, May.
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    11. Wendy Hunter, 2016. "Formalizing safety nets and the requirements to obtain them: An increased role for identity documents in the Global South," WIDER Working Paper Series 112, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
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