Definitions of the rule of law fall into two categories: (1) those that emphasize the ends that the rule of law is intended to serve within society (such as upholding law and order, or providing predictable and efficient judgments), and (2) those that highlight the institutional attributes believed necessary to actuate the rule of law (such as comprehensive laws, well-functioning courts, and trained law enforcement agencies). For practical and historical reasons, legal scholars and philosophers have favored the first type of definition. Practitioners of rule-of-law development programs tend to use the second type of definition. This paper analyzes the challenge of effectively de.ning the rule of law, through an examination of both types of de.nitions, the historical background of each, and the implications of each for rule-of-law development efforts.

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About the Author
Rachel Kleinfeld Belton is the director of the Truman National Security Project and is a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. She is completing her doctorate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, where she is comparing United States and EU strategies to build the rule of law abroad. She has consulted and written on rule-of-law building strategies for the World Bank and various private organizations, based on field work throughout Eastern Europe and Asia.

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