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2023 Yearly Roundup: Editors’ Picks


On Monday, we gave you the big list of everything we published in 2023. Today, we offer a bit of curation, as our editorial staff highlights some of their favorite posts.


Sam Moyn’s end-of-summer “Does LPE Need Theory?” brought us a long autumn of theoretical soul-searching here on the blog. Yet my favorite theory post of 2023 came back in late winter, with Akbar Rasulov’s “What CLS Meant by the Indeterminacy Thesis.” Rasulov explains that what distinguished the Crits from their realist predecessors was their understanding of indeterminacy less as an innate feature of doctrine and more as a time-bound social phenomenon produced by the interpretive work and struggles of legal actors. “The ‘passive’ fact of indeterminacy, in the CLS perspective,” he writes, “constitutes, in the end, a far less important event than the actual processes of indetermination and de-indetermination.” This insight, Rasulov suggests, is CLS’s legacy for LPE; after all, the production of indeterminacy has its own political economy.

Meanwhile, on the practice side of the theory-practice divide, the blog made great headway this year identifying points of synergy across different realms of movement organizing. Interested in the intersection of anti-carceral politics and labor? Check out Han Lu and Bernard Callegari on Local 79’s “Real Re-Entry” campaign, as well as Noah Zatz on worker power across the “carceral labor continuum.” Interested in the intersection of anti-surveillance politics and labor? Check out our symposium on “Workplace Surveillance & Collective Resistance,” as well as Veena Dubal on algorithmic wage discrimination. Interested in the intersection of labor and housing? Check out Zoe Tucker on UNITE-HERE Local 11’s housing strategy, Charmaine Chua, Desiree Field, and David Stein on the University of California as employer, landlord, and investor, and Duncan Kennedy, Karl Klare, Michael Turk, Greg Baltz, and Shakeer Rahman on whether or not to import collective bargaining into tenant law.

Finally, some of my favorite posts this year brought into focus the broad contours of an LPE regulatory agenda. A few gems were Martha McCluskey on tax policy for a climate in crisis; Raúl Carrillo on the Sam Bankman-Fried conviction and its (non-)significance for the criminogenic world of fin-tech; and Amanda Parsons and Salomé Viljoen on the disjuncture between existing regulatory frameworks and the emergent accumulation logics of information capitalism.


A big highlight for me this year was the Sanctions Symposium, which questioned how and why we have come to see economic coercion as more peaceful and legitimate than the use of physical force, despite the devastating humanitarian consequences of decades of unilateral sanctions. It also raised important questions about what will happen now that U.S. unipolar power—the precondition for unfettered unilateralism—is under threat. The possibility that the rules that the United States championed abroad could be applied to its own conduct has made those rules suddenly appear less attractive.

Similar themes echoed across other excellent posts published this year. For instance, as David Adler and José Miguel Ahumada observed, the recent backlash against the dominant free trade world order has felt like a “gaslighting ceremony” to the Global South—where, as Mariana Pargendler highlighted, the downsides of legal regimes that protect investors at all costs have been clearly visible all along.

Meanwhile, Ryan Martínez Mitchell’s post, Economic Coercion in a Multipolar World, showed how powerful non-Western actors—most notably China—are adopting the same rules that they had long criticized. Martínez Mitchell puts it elegantly: we are seeing a “multiplication of hegemonic contenders combining free(ish) trade agendas with unilateral prerogatives.” This post was a stand-out for me, as it illustrates how actors like China can mobilize the language of resistance in a way that actually reinforces the ability of powerful actors to use economic coercion as they wish. At the same time, though, multipolarity creates an opportunity for negotiation over what kinds of rules could be mutually acceptable.

I was thrilled by the amount of love that legal theory got on the Blog this year. I especially enjoyed Talha Syed’s and Ntina Tzouvala’s responses to Sam Moyn’s provocative, agenda-setting post—both of which raise the possibility, from different angles, that CLS may not have had too much but instead too little theory.

Finally, Talia Rothstein’s post on law school clinics was a powerful call to think about what socially transformative legal education would look like. (I also learned a lot from, and found inspiring, the historical account of the social-movement roots of law school clinics.) How can law schools support organizing and movements without co-opting them? And how can they do so in light of the material pressures placed on law students, which suppress speech and action and channel students towards “safer” paths?


Sam Moyn’s challenge to LPE to talk about its legal theory framed many of my favorite contributions to the blog this year. Undoubtedly, there’s a hunger, especially among students, for a more direct confrontation with foundational legal questions. What is the LPE alternative to, say, contract theory or property and how can a legal left advocate for egalitarianism on its own terms? At the same time, as Ntina Tzouvala, Sanjukta Paul, and Jedediah Britton-Purdy all noted, and as Moyn himself acknowledges, this perspective discounts the highly inductive and necessarily field-specific work done by this blog and its contributors already.

How else can you understand the sharp work that the blog’s contributors did this year? Take, for instance, Madison Condon’s critique of the shaky foundations of damage functions in climate damages calculations, which she forcefully ties to economists’ hubris. Or consider Evelyn Atkinson’s fruitful engagement with the concept of moral economy to better understand pre-neoliberal (even pre-New Deal) antecedents to regulations of important businesses, specifically the telegraph. Or check out Mariana Pargendler’s thought-provoking contribution to the American debate about ESG. Several symposia too showed what LPE can offer to discussions about reparations, economic sanctions, and rural communities. Each showed how sharp legal analysis proceeding from attention to the details of social problems can help understand where we are and where we might go.

Finally, some of my favorite posts dealt with foundational features of legal education and the legal profession. And they did them in particularized ways, mindful of broader values but avoidant of grand theorizing. Talia Rothstein’s stellar investigation of the history, role, and powerful potential of clinics in legal education exemplifies how law schools can be powerful sites of social movement formation. Sandeep Vaheesan and Andy Fitch’s discussion of the doctrinal shortcomings of a particularly famous antitrust treatise challenges any law student not yet disabused of the notion that legal treatises are entirely objective works. And Luke Herrine’s introduction to the tricky concept of “efficiency” is a great place to start for critical perspectives and resources on the concept.  

Yet Moyn’s call for broader, more abstract theorizing also brings to mind Amy Kapczynski’s first two posts of the year. There, Kapczynski draws on Corinne Blalock’s postmortem on critical legal theory, which argues that the force of the Crits’ theory lost sway, in part, because they lost sight of the “new paradigm [that] was taking over: neoliberalism.” Kapczynski calls for keeping a watchful eye on developments on both the right, with “the new theocracy,” and the center, with the turn to “new productivism” and their claims “to new post-neoliberal paradigms, lest we see them clearly only when it is too late to stop them.” A year later, the political landscape ahead looks even more uncertain, with American political leadership’s staggering cowardice in refusing to stand up for the nearly 20,000 dead people in Gaza and its inability to see the domestic political coalitions this refusal undermines (see the Blog’s contributions on Gaza here by Maryam Jashidi, here by Noah Zatz, and here by a group of scholars). How will LPE show people that the struggles of 2024–and the answers–are related?


For my selections this year, I’ve decided to hand out a few awards (the Jebbies?).

The “Hottest Summer of Your Life, So Far” award goes to Madison Condon for her post, Damage Functions (Or Why I Am Mad at Economists). I found this piece valuable both for its central insight – that simplistic economic models have consistently downplayed climate harms – and for the white hot anger that it radiated from my screen. The incremental nature of the unfolding climate disaster can make it difficult to maintain the appropriate level of anger at the various forces in our society that continue to enable inaction. Thankfully, we have people like Madison to remind us.

The “You Come In Here with a Skull Full of Mush” award goes to Luke Herrine for his post, Who Cares About Efficiency? Luke’s opinionated guide to the many meanings of efficiency is a post that every law student would benefit from reading, and I encourage teachers to consider adding it to their syllabi. Beyond bringing much-needed clarity to a concept that appears across the curriculum, the post also conveys a lesson that sometimes takes students too long to learn: that a sense of confusion should not always be interpreted as a failing on one’s own part, but instead is often a sign that something is amiss in the material.

The “What Is an Ocean But a Multitude of Drops” award goes to Tara Raghuveer, for her post, Emancipatory Horizons in Tenant Organizing. This fall has felt worryingly like one of those movie montages in which a series of ever-worsening headlines flash across the screen to indicate a slide into darkness (“Trump Calls Political Enemies Vermin,” “Self-described Anarcho-Capitalist Wins Argentina Presidential Election,” “After ‘Barbie,’ Mattel Is Raiding Its Entire Toybox”). But it’s hard not to feel a spark of hope while reading Tara Raghuveer’s account of one tenant union fight in Kansas City. As she notes, the system that commodifies our homes won’t be toppled by eight families settling into rehabbed units, but in this small victory, one can see the seeds of political change.

The “I Declare Bankruptcy” award goes to Christine Desan, Lev Menand, Raúl Carrillo, Rohan Grey, Dan Rohde, and Hilary J. Allen for their Six Reactions to the Silicon Valley Bank Debacle. Every single “rapid roundtable” we have published is worth reading, as they consistently offer perspectives that you will not find in standard coverage. But I found these reflections on the SVB debacle to be particularly helpful in understanding how our banking system does and does not work: they explain, for instance, how escalating inequality has contributed to the top-heavy architecture of the present system, how the replacement of public-sector oversight with a market discipline approach has been a disaster, and why you should never keep any money in your Venmo account. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

The “What Have We Always Said Is the Most Important Thing?” award goes to Sam Moyn, Jed Britton-Purdy, Sanjukta Paul, Ntina Tzouvala, and Talha Syed for their entries about theorizing in LPE. I immensely enjoyed this exchange, though I found myself in the somewhat odd position of nodding along with every post. Luckily, the position that emerges from this synthesis is also the one I believe to be the most defensible: that it would be welcome and valuable for LPE scholars to more explicitly articulate the normative and social theories that underlie the positions they take, even though doing so will often be unnecessary and insufficient to make headway on the more specific issues on which they work. Insofar as there is a disagreement here, it seems to be more about the relative importance or priority of these different tasks than about any real tension between them. But from my perspective, there’s plenty of blog space in this town for everyone.

A few honorable mentions: I predict that Amy Kapczynski’s skeptical take about productivism/a liberalism that builds will appear increasingly prescient with each passing year. Liz Sepper and James Nelson’s eye-opening look at the rise of government-run yet religious hospitals made clear that LPE scholars should be paying greater attention to alliances between religious and economic conservatives. The slings and arrows that Sandeep Vaheesan and Andy Fitch launched at the Areeda-Hovenkamp treatise on antitrust were, to me, a testament to the literary form of the blogpost: an incredibly deep, bite-sized investigation that will hopefully inspire further research. Finally, a shout out to our contingent of California authors, who batted a thousand this year when it came to labor and housing issues, with Veena Dubal highlighting the rise of algorithmic wage discrimination; Charmaine Chua, Desiree Fields, David Stein discussing the UC systems’ $4.5 billion (with a b) investment in the Blackstone Real Estate Investment Trust; Zoe Tucker describing how and why unions should make housing a bargaining issue; Asher Morse explaining how labor agreements could protect federal agencies from future presidential attacks; and last but certainly not least, Noah Zatz analyzing how the carceral state reaches into the heart of so-called “free” labor markets.