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LSI Forum

This forum provides in-depth scholarly responses to articles published in Law and Social Inquiry.  These responses not only highlight the empirical accomplishments of LSI articles, but also critically engage with their findings to begin new scholarly conversations.  

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If you would like to contribute a response on a specific LSI article for LSI Forum, please get in touch with the LSI Editorial Coordinator at  

Volume 2

A Forum on Mila Versteeg and Tom Ginsburg's "Measuring the Rule of Law: A Comparison of Indicators," Law & Social Inquiry 42 (forthcoming, January 2017).  Available on Early View here.

"Whose Rule of Law Is It?"

Karen Alter

Increasingly firms, charities, governments, international institutions and donors are wanting hard data to back their decisions, a trend that is making indicators increasingly important drivers of fundamental decisions (Merry, 2011; Kelley and Simmons, 2015).  The more foreign investors and hedge funds systematically investigate the ease of doing business, and the more individuals and NGOs base their funding on the efficient use of resources ... read more

Cite as: Alter, Karen. 2016. "Whose Rule of Law Is It?" LSI Forum 2: 1-5.

"The Social Life of Measurement"

Sally Merry Engle

Indicators promise to measure the world, to convert the buzzing confusion and complexity of everyday life into clean numbers that permit comparison and ranking.  They succeed in ordering the world. But to some extent, the world also orders the indicators. In this fascinating article, Mila Versteeg and Tom Ginsburg note a striking similarity among rule of law indicators despite their varied definitions and measurement strategies. They argue that this similarity occurs because all these indicators tap into an underlying principle of impartial government, a claim well supported in the article. But they also suggest that this convergence is the result of the similarities in the use of expert opinion and overlapping data in the construction of all four indicators. In other words, the article hints at the ways in which indicators are social constructions shaped by experts and the constraints of knowledge production. Here I will take their second argument farther, suggesting several ways that indicators are creatures of the social context in which they are made.

The article shows very clearly that despite significant differences in definitions of the rule of law and measurement strategies, the four indicators of rule of law they examine have striking similarities ... read more

Cite as: Merry, Sally Engle. 2016. "The Social Life of Movements" LSI Forum 2: 6-9.

"Measuring the Rule of Law: Pushing Forward"

Tom Ginsburg and Mila Versteeg

We are grateful that readers of the stature of Professors Alter and Merry have taken the time to read our article and to offer such thoughtful reflections on it. As we acknowledge, our paper is part of a broader literature on the phenomenon of rule of law indicators (Skanning 2010; Merkel 2012; Møller and Skaaning 2014; Rothstein 2014) and our findings are in many ways consistent with those of earlier scholars.  Yet we also believe that a continuing conversation on indicators is critical in an era defined by what Merry (2016) calls the “Seductions of Quantification.”  

Alter asks for greater interrogation of the gap between experts and mass perceptions, something familiar from both the current political moment of Brexit and Donald Trump, as well as the literature on political behavior ... read more

Cite as: Ginsburg, Tom and Mila Versteeg. 2016. "Measuring the Rule of Law: Pushing Forward" LSI Forum 2: 10-12.

Past Issues of LSI Forum, Vol. 1:

Forum on Sida Liu's "Law's Social Forms: A Powerless Approach to the Sociology of Law"

Ezra Rosser's Response to Gregory Alexander's "The Complexities of Land Reparations"

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