Lys Kulamadayil: Welfare Interventions and Rentier States – What Role for Law?

Welfare Interventions and Rentier States – What Role for Law?

Lys Kulamadayil

International economic institutions incentivized a liberal-economic outlook of domestic institutions through welfare interventions. Welfare interventions describe stimulations to pursue prosperity and economic growth in developing countries through integrating into the global economy. While economic and social incentives used in this process are well-known, the role of law remains obscure. This paper seeks to shed some light on this by studying how international law has been used by international economic institutions to integrate postcolonial countries into the global political economy. In the tension between incentive and cohesion, this paper will examine law’s potential to direct the behavior of domestic institutions. Furthermore, it will seek to understand law’s role in creating an image of welfare that development policies of international economic institutions carry.
Focusing in particular on Rentier states, this paper demonstrates an evolution in the use of international law by international economic instructions over time. By paving the avenue to inclusion through emancipation, law promised the freedom from want. Emancipation however, meant embracing the imposition of domestic institutional reform and policies. Good law was then used to deflect any critique from the hegemonic agenda pursued through welfare interventions. This paper finds that international economic institutions used law for both, to enable and seduce. Recent IMF and World Bank policies demonstrate an operational turn in the use of law. Law has been demystified, through the embrace of informal normative frameworks that are often based on market mechanisms and include a broad range of transnational and domestic actors. Through these legal frameworks, international economic institutions seek to promote good governance at the domestic level, in the pursuit of a new form of welfare.

Lys Kulamadayil is a PhD candidate at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School. Her doctoral research examines the implications of international law in natural resource governance in postcolonial export-based economies. Her research interests include legal theory, law and politics, economic, environmental and global governance and socio-economic justice. Lys has taught in the international law and international affairs graduate programs of the Graduate Institute and is also the Co-founder and Co-convener of the International Law Literature Forum.

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