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Weekly Roundup: February 24, 2023


At the Blog

On Monday, Charmaine Chua, Desiree Fields, and David Stein argued that the University of California’s recent $4.5 billion investment in Blackstone’s REIT betrays its public mission by contributing to housing scarcity and tenant disempowerment. After explaining how Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) work and why they are a plague upon homeowners and renters, the post asks why a university system that is publicly committed to reducing housing insecurity among its students would invest in such a fund. As the authors write, “The retreat of state investment propels universities into private markets, which they begin to see as the solution to public problems. Under this devolutionary cycle, public institutions increasingly naturalize private investment decisions as the proper remedy to flagging budgets, rather than fight for the reconstruction of the public sector. In the process, the various functions of the university become bifurcated and operate as distinct domains, often with opposing logics and interests.”

On Tuesday, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò kicked off a symposium on his recent book Reconsidering Reparations, by outlining its main argument. In contrast to views that focus on retributive or reconciliatory justice, Táíwò defends reparations as a future-oriented project engaged in building a just social order and argues that, if we accept this view, reparations should be directly linked to the struggle for climate justice. “The two topics are connected,” he writes, “by the fact that our political and economic system distributes risk according to the patterns developed by the history of global racial empire. Given this, we can expect climate change to redistribute social advantages in a way that compounds and locks in the distributional injustices that we have inherited. Left unchecked, the climate crisis threatens to destabilize and overwhelm the past victories won for the cause of racial justice and whatever additional ones we are able to eke out in the near future.”

And on Thursday, Daniel Aldana Cohen continued the symposium by reconstructing the book’s climate arguments and discussing the way the book situates the reader in historical time, both past and future. As he writes, “If it feels impossible to imagine wholly deconstructing global racial empire—and unwinding five centuries of ecological damage—in just a couple of political cycles, that’s because it is. Worldmaking takes time. That’s not to join the centrists scolding young radicals for their impatience. Rather, I got the sense that Táíwò was often speaking to readers whose righteous impatience is eating them alive. Climate activists can learn from centuries of anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist work. Táíwò’s parting gift is a framework that reconciles the enormities of our emergencies—racial violence, capitalist exploitation, climate breakdown—with a revolutionary realism that mortals can live with. To believe in the future requires believing in history.”

In LPE Land

At Utopia 8/13, Amna Akbar, Cornel West, Derecka Purnell, and Bernard E. Harcourt discussed the role of law in progressive politics.

The Rebellious Lawyering Conference has returned: The 2023 RebLaw conference will be held on Saturday, March 11 at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut. Registration for the conference will open on Thursday, February 23.

The Columbia Center for Political Economy is seeking two Postdoctoral Research Scholars to be embedded in our “Work and Labor” and “Firms and Antitrust” idea labs. Materials due March 17.

On Monday, February 27, the Harvard Law & Political Economy Association will be discussing a plan of action to finance the global Green New Deal with Robert Hockett.

If you’re a student at a US law school (or undergraduate institution) who hasn’t found a critical mass of like-minded classmates on campus, the LPE US At-Large group is starting up again!

On Friday, March 3, Branden Adams will presenting “Coal and Capitalism: From Railroads and Miners’ Unions to Senator Manchin’s Climate Politics” as part of APPEAL’s “What is Capitalism?” Reading & Discussion Group. Register here

Pamela Foohey and Christopher K. Odinet posted a forthcoming paper, “Silencing Litigation Through Bankruptcy,” which examines how defendants harness bankruptcy’s reorganization process to deprive survivors of their voice and the public of the truth.

In Peste, Nate Holdren reflects on the social and political loneliness experienced by those who aren’t going along with the so-called “back to normal.”

Is neoliberalism dead or have the reports of its death been exaggerated? If you have thoughts on the subject, you might want to check out this CFP: Neoliberal Capitalism Between Crisis and Resilience: Past, Present, Future. Submission deadline March 12.