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Doing Business, Legal Origins Theory, Immanent Critique, Law and Development, Politics of Development Knowledge


This article uses the World Bank’s Doing Business project to illuminate the politics of “governance by knowledge.” It synthesizes scholarship critiquing the project’s legitimacy and contributes to research challenging the instrumental benefits of improved Doing Business performance. The article’s major contribution is an immanent critique of Legal Origins Theory, which was developed largely to provide ex post validation for the project’s core claims, but whose premises, when taken seriously, lead to conclusions that contradict its “one-size-fits-all” logic. The article demonstrates much can be learned about the politics of development by engaging rationalizations of power on their own terms.


This is the Author's Original Manuscript (AOM). This article has been accepted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Development Studies, published by Taylor & Francis.