Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law welcomed Jane Stromseth, Georgetown University Law Center Professor of Law, as a guest commenter for a special presentation of the Chapman Dialogue Lecture Series on November 10. The presentation focused on the book Culture in Law and Development: Nurturing Positive Change (Oxford Univ. Press 2016), the latest work by Lan Cao, the Betty Hutton Williams Professor of International Economic Law at the Fowler School of Law.

Professor Cao began with a brief description of her work, which addresses the issue of cultural norms and the relationship between culture and the rule of law in international law. She then described three major waves of law and development since the 1960s, which, she argued, all failed due to a focus on formal laws rather than a focus on cultural changes.

“In the U.S., because we have a tradition of the rule of law, laws may in fact cause a rippling effect and create a societal change,” Professor Cao said. “But if you use that framework of just passing laws … into a society that does not have a rule of law culture, then I think it’s extremely ineffective. You have to accompany law with a really robust culture change.”

Professor Stromseth used her own work and experiences to further illustrate themes from Professor Cao’s book. “What she shows in her book is that culture is fluid, it’s contested, there are so many different strands within a culture,” Professor Stromseth said. “And there are groups working within a culture to push it in progressive directions that are internally trying to reform the culture. That’s the kind of project that she’s encouraging us to be more fully and self-consciously involved in.”

The Dialogue closed with a lively Q&A segment with the audience.

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