SDC-23306 Law and Public Power


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work4
Course coordinator(s)dr. FM Köhne
Lecturer(s)dr. FM Köhne
Examiner(s)dr. FM Köhne

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Law, Policy and Governance.

Continuation courses:

YSS-83812 BSc Thesis Communication, Technology and Policy; ENP-30506 Theories on Politics and Governance; PAP-31306 Politics, Policy Making and Accountability in International Arenas for Development; SDC-31306 Property Rights, Natural Resources and Conflict


The powers and limitations of the state, and the relation between the state and its citizens have recently become more important in development theory. State governance has to deal with pressure from international organisations, multinational corporations, and non-governmental organisations. States also experience growing civil society pressure to improve state performance and democratic control. Law plays a central role in shifting state powers and responsibility. Many states operate under a certain 'rule of law' that forms the core of a state's legitimacy to rule over its citizens. But what does the rule of law in black letter mean for government practices, and how can the rule of law be promoted in the context of continuing power shifts?
This course examines the search for legitimacy of governance by both state and non-state actors and the role that law plays in providing legitimacy in the light of the recent trends to shift power and responsibility from the national state to other entities, institutions and organisations.
The central concepts are state, law, property, legitimacy, and rule of law. The course not only deals with the theories. By making an analysis of specific cases strengths and weaknesses are examined of major projects and proposals to develop governance arrangements, focusing on power relations and the involved processes of legitimation.
In the course special attention will be given to human rights as a normative framework in defining responsibilities of states vis-a-vis its own citizens and across borders. A key question is how these rights have been used by state and non-state actors to both confirm and challenge the legitimacy of government action.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- critically review the changing roles of public power in different fields;
- analyse how law can contribute in positive and negative ways to development;
- distinguish and criticize key assumptions on the relationships between state, law and governance;
- explore major theoretical developments of the notion of state, law, property, legitimacy, and rule of law, and apply these concepts;
- analyse the role played by law in different governance arrangements;
- research the different roles of legitimating discourses around powerful actors, such as Rule of Law and Human Rights and their diverse translations in major international development discussions.


- lectures;
- writing assignments;
- discussions about theory and assignments;
- special preparation of discussions about theory by one or two participants;
- excursion;
- analysis of case studies in small groups: different projects to improve legitimacy;
- presentation of case studies.


- reading assignments in pairs (50% of the final score);
- attendance and contributions to class (10%);
- written exam (40% of final score).
Instead of the written test, students can write a case study in a small group of 4-5 people.


Literature and Course Outline will be made available through Blackboard.
Participants will furthermore do their own literature search in the case study groups.

Compulsory for: BINInternational Development StudiesBScC: Communication, Technology and Policy5MO
Restricted Optional for: MIDInternational Development StudiesMScD: Politics and Governance of Development1AF
Restricted Optional for: WUFFHBSc Minor Freedom from Hunger1AF