Journal Article

Building Legal Order in Ancient Athens

Federica Carugati, Gillian K. Hadfield and Barry R. Weingast

in Journal of Legal Analysis

Volume 7, issue 2, pages 291-324
Published in print December 2015 | ISSN: 2161-7201
Published online July 2015 | e-ISSN: 1946-5319 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jla/lav003

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How do democratic societies establish and maintain order in ways that are conducive to growth? Contemporary scholarship associates order, democracy, and growth with centralized rule of law institutions. In this article, we test the robustness of modern assumptions by turning to the case of ancient Athens. Democratic Athens was remarkably stable and prosperous, but the ancient city-state never developed extensively centralized rule of law institutions. Drawing on the “what-is-law” account of legal order elaborated by Hadfield and Weingast (2012), we show that Athens’ legal order relied on institutions that achieved common knowledge and incentive compatibility for enforcers in a largely decentralized system of coercion. Our approach provides fresh insights into how robust legal orders may be built in countries where centralized rule of law institutions have failed to take root.

Journal Article.  14574 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law ; Economics

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