Yesterday, we gave you a list of everything we published in 2022. Feel free to nail that to your law school’s library door. Today and tomorrow, we do a bit of curation, offering a selection of our personal favorites.
In a year when critics challenged the conventional wisdom around how to address inflation, I enjoyed our symposium on the subject, “Beyond the Fed,” for cutting through platitudes and being informative and provocative. While I learned a lot from William Boyd’s, Karina Patrício Ferreira Lima and John Hogan Morris’, and Andrew Elrod’s posts, the collection as a whole shines and makes the the legal, historical, and moral case for a more nuanced, capacious approach to inflation, informed by extensive evidence on how key markets work.
One post I found challenging and constructive was Noah Zatz’s “Democracy Without Law?” Among those critical of existing institutions, there’s a risk of waving away potentially-tricky problems about implementing an egalitarian legal and political program with recourse to “democracy.” I see Zatz as pushing those interested in democratizing the law to spell out what they mean and think about the institutional and doctrinal details (or perhaps at the very least the institutional and doctrinal questions). And Zatz prompts the reader to think about what exactly they want to get out of law that’s rightfully distinct from politics. For a thoughtful counterpoint, check out Ryan Doerfler’s thread and Zatz’s reply here.
A few other favorites from the past year: the symposium on Marta Russell the Political Economy of Disability, Kate Redburn’s call to pay attention to the religious right’s use of the religion clauses of the First Amendment and why it matters, Aziz Rana’s post on Joseph Fishkin and William Forbath’s Anti-Oligarchy Constitution, Carly Knight’s brief history of liberal and progressive theorization on the nature of the corporation, and Marshall Steinbaum’s sizzling review of Elizabeth Popp Berman’s important book Thinking Like an Economist.
It’s been another year of great and thought-provoking Blog posts. Too many favorites to list comprehensively, but here are of my highlights:
Perhaps because of the proximity of my own law school clinic experience, the thoughtful Law Clinics and Racial Capitalism symposium had me seriously reflecting on how law school clinics can serve as “sites of disruption and contention vis-à-vis racial capitalism,” in Sameer Ashar, Renee Hatcher, and John Whitlow’s words. I appreciated how the symposium at once articulated big-picture philosophies of/approaches to disruptive clinical lawyering (e.g., adopting a “radical early defense” strategy in family defense work, teaching and litigating beyond the “perpetrator/victim” binary in criminal law clinics, and embracing interdisciplinary advocacy across issue areas), and also delved into the actual nuts and bolts of designing an emancipatory clinic (down to syllabus design and resisting the often-depoliticizing influence of incorporated nonprofits in clinical work). This is a must-read series for clinical law students and professors (and pairs nicely with Scott Cummings’ post, “Lessons for Legal Mobilization“). It was also a good reminder that the frictions that we encounter in law school clinical work should be generative: as Alicia Virani writes, questioning our role in any particular legal system is, in many ways, “the goal”—when we feel uncomfortable, we realize “that there is no other option but to work towards dismantling the system and breaking free.”
Another symposium highlight for me was the Capitalism & Disability series, which spotlights the work of disability theorist and activist Marta Russell. The symposium—along with a must-read conversation between Rabia Belt, Doron Dorfman, Jasmine Harris, Jamelia Morgan, and Karen Tani that the Blog published back in January—underscores the need to center political economy perspectives on disability. It also illustrates how the work of Russell and other critical disability theorists can vastly enrich LPE conversations about identity, economy, and law.
2022 marked another year of important work on housing justice and tenants’ rights issues. Nicole Summers’ work on “civil probation” in housing court, for instance, shows how a “shadow legal system” drives evictions and expands landlord control over tenant conduct. David Stein’s contribution to the Blog’s stellar inflation symposium underscored how vulnerable renters are to soaring inflation, and encouraged us to think about how policy tools “beyond the Fed,” such as federal rent control policy, would help discipline landlords’ price-setting power. And John Whitlow’s contribution to the Decommodifying Urban Property symposium urges us to consider mandatory tenant collective bargaining laws that would “amplify the capacity of tenants to contend with the extractive practices of financialized landlords.”
Finally, Amy Kapczynski and Wendy Brown’s conversation on democracy, courts, the state, and decentralized power structures is wonderfully accessible even for those of us (read: me) who are so terribly far from being political theory wonks but also so terribly desperate to understand.
If there’s one post from 2022 that, in my view, best makes the case for the moral and political necessity of LPE as a pursuit, it would be “LPE and the Global Food Crisis” by William Boyd. Rejecting “neo-Malthusian” imaginaries of global grain scarcity, Boyd points to pricing practices and the configuration of markets — in other words, distinctly legal structures — as the central drivers of modern food inaccessibility. For anyone seeking to understand and challenge the accelerating mass production of entirely avoidable hunger, this post (along with Boyd’s related scholarship) provides a crucial place to start.
Likewise, if there’s one post from 2022 around which I’d like to see sustained future debate, it’s Jay Clayton’s “Who’s Afraid of Public Ownership?” Clayton makes a strong case that LPE scholarship should more fully engage movement demands for municipalization and nationalization. In the urban housing context, for example, Clayton argues that by leaving social housing off the menu, the left finds itself mired in a fruitless clash between pro-development (YIMBY) and anti-development (NIMBY) coalitions, neither of which are poised to resolve the crises of housing injustice and mass homelessness. Moving forward, it will be fascinating to see how such thinking about possibilities of public ownership converges, or doesn’t, with LPE efforts to radically re-think the horizons of corporate regulation (such as these two).
Finally, two posts stood out to me this year for their compelling treatments of the age-old question, “what is law?” The first is Noah Zatz’s “Democracy Without Law?,” which approaches the question by illustrating the untenable outcomes that emerge when we conflate legal and political decision-making. Zatz invites us to imagine that some democratic body has made a policy decision based on political grounds. Then, a question or dispute arises implicating the policy, demanding some kind of further decision. Zatz writes: “For the prior democratic process to have been anything but a waste of time, it must constrain how this subsequent question or dispute is resolved.” If the resolution of the subsequent decision requires a further democratic process, we find ourselves in a state of regress. Law, then, is the means by which past political decisions, democratic or otherwise, constrain present action.
In contrasting yet complementary fashion, Ruth Dukes and Wolfgang Streeck’s essay “Labour Law and Political Economy” defines law as a social-regulatory institution whose core function is the “highly complex, methodically and logically disciplined engagement of concepts – concepts that aim to capture both what the world is and what it ought to be, and to do so coherently, free of contradictions.” Situating this notion of law within the tumultuous field of class struggle, Dukes and Streeck elucidate how labor law (distinguished from private contract law by the particularities of labor as a commodity) functions both as a site of political contestation over norms of economic justice and as an institutional stabilizer of class relations within discrete historical moments. A true LPE gem of the highest order!