In 1971, the Algerian government promulgated the Charte de l'Organisation Socialiste des Entreprises. By means of this Charte it ostensibly sought to reform Algerian public enterprise law and to correct increasingly disruptive problems in public enterprise management. It also sought to reduce the widening gap between workers and the technocratic elite managing the state-controlled economy. The Charte and its subsequent implementing legislation have been criticized as being, at best, ambiguous; at worst, insincere. Moreover, implementation of la gestion socialiste, as the reform came to be known, was uneven and slow.

This article discusses Algerian public enterprise law before and after the 1971 reform. It does so within the context of comparing the utility of applying a symbolic rather than an instrumental view of the role of law in development. On the basis of analysis of the Algerian experience, the article suggests that the symbolic view of law allows a much deeper understanding of the role of law in development, primarily because it allows, if not requires, consideration of the influence of economic, political and social factors on the role of law in developing countries.