Cancelled State-Building after Conflict

Course content

The modern state that came into being in the wake of the Westphalian Peace in Europe subsequently spread, through both choice and coercion, to virtually the entire globe.

The military and technological superiority of European societies acquired through the scientific and industrial revolutions allowed them to dominate and subjugate the rest of the world, but it is important to realise that the modern corporate state spread primarily because it was more effective and more efficient than traditional forms of political or-ganisation.

The modern administrative state offered capabilities and opportunities that other societies couldn’t do without, thus leading to sustained and ongoing efforts to transpose its constituent elements into different cultures and adapt them to local needs.


This course introduces you to these processes of transposition and adaptation of Western notions of law and governance to other parts of the world.

To use a biological metaphor, concepts, institutions, organisational forms and mandates that had grown in a European cultural soil and in response to particular stimuli and interests were uprooted and replanted into foreign soil.

Some of these plants flourished, often by adapting and transforming beyond recognition, while others withered. Here you will learn about this ecology of legal transplants and begin to become a gardener of comparative institutions.

Transplantation is a universal phenomenon and the central domain of comparative law.


In this course, we draw many but not all examples from the tortuous modernisation process in the Muslim world. Its experience of sudden inferiority and humiliating domination is emblematic of many Southern societies.

The resulting practical, ideational and psychological difficulties of introducing ‘best practices’ and ‘good governance’ into a competing traditional normative and social system are thus not uniquely Islamic but emblematic of the ‘buzzing, blooming confusion’ of modernity.

Learning outcome

- Know basic definitions of key terms like state, institution, etc.;
- Know broad historical transmission lines;
- Know the hierarchy of state functions;
- Know the differences between state scope and capacity;
- Know the key characteristics of the modern era;
- Know selected universally existing institutions;
- Know selected institutions that failed to transfer.


- Read classic texts of political and constitutional theory;
- Identify major disciplinary debates, both historical and contemporary;
- Identify ‘lines of parentage’ of key concepts and ideological positions;
- Identify and evaluate major legal and bureaucratic institutions;
- Identify social pressures for legal change;
- Carry out independent interdisciplinary research;
- Assess the feasibility of competing ideological positions;
- Distinguish between dogmatic ideal and practical reality;
- Communicate academic findings to an interdisciplinary audience;
- Analyse the role of law in complex socio-political phenomena;
- Communicate these insights effectively.

- Conduct independent interdisciplinary research;
- Critically examine the validity and reliability of dogmatic claims;
- Disaggregate complex phenomena in the developing world;
- Distinguish legal from related argumentation;
- Critically assess claims about cultural and legal immutability

We follow the Socratic method and will thus rely heavily on student participation and informed discussions, as opposed to lectures. This means that students will have to do some reading and come prepared.


Further information about the syllabus will appear from Absalon


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Given the broad range of the substantive problem covered in this course, students from very diverse disciplinar backgrounds will have different but often complementary challenges. A willingness to engage with ethical dilemmata, operational and logistical conundra, history and culture, in addition to public and administrative law are obvous advantages.

This course will be interdisciplinary and has no prerequisites beyond knowledge of English. No knowledge of state-building is presupposed. We will use the first session to bring everybody up to speed.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Individual written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • English
  • 412,5


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

  1. Students enrolled at Faculty of Law or holding a pre-approval: No tuition fee
  2. Professionals: Please visit our website  
Please see timetable for teaching time
Contracting department
  • Law
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator
  • Ebrahim Afsah   (13-6a6777666d6e7233666b78666d456f7a7733707a336970)
Saved on the 25-07-2023

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