Amidst plural claims for the recognition and respect of diversity, not only the structures but also the very rationale of modern law have shown problematic limitations. In this paper, I argue that a core challenge for contemporary socio-legal transformation relies on how modern law is called to relate to difference and development in order to fulfill its promise of preventing or resolving conflicts. This is, I argue, the result of law’s embeddedness in a modern sociolect that pervades social interaction with a double appeal. It compels equally to reject dogmas as much as to fix one position that is argued as ‘the’ (most) rational one. This paper combines the socio-linguistic theory of Peter V. Zima with an inquiry on the relation between modern law and development in the historical context of world-encompassing colonialism and sociological research on legal development in recent Latin American history, more specifically using the example of the Colombian Constitutional reform in 1991. On this basis, I argue that the strained relation of law with plurality is determined by the modern sociolects it is embedded in along with the notion of ‘development’, independently of the political ideology that concrete projects pursue. While ‘early-modern’ conceptions of law aim to (dis)solve differences, ‘late-modern’ ones are trapped in ambivalent ‘solutions’ that leave the door open to all sorts of power-abuse. On this transdisciplinary ground the paper aims to provide tools for reflection on current processes of legal reform.


Legal Development in Latin America Pluralism Constitutional Reform Legal Transfer Post-Modernity Socio-Linguistics