Many social scientists rely on the rule of law in their accounts of political or economic development. Many however simply equate law with a stable government capable of enforcing the rules generated by a political authority. As two decades of largely failed efforts to build the rule of law in poor and transition countries and continuing struggles to build international legal order demonstrate, we still do not understand how legal order is produced, especially in places where it does not already exist. We here canvas literature in the social sciences to identify the themes and gaps in the existing accounts. We conclude that this literature has failed to produce a microfoundational account of the phenomenon of legal order. We then discuss our recent effort to develop the missing microfoundations of legal order to provide a better framework for future work on the rule of law.