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Weekly Roundup: January 26, 2024


At the Blog

On Monday, Brian Callaci discussed the disconnect between labor and antitrust progressives when it comes to questions of power and fairness in labor markets. As highlighted by a spate of recent agency actions, the Biden administration’s antitrust policy has been the most pro-labor in decades. And yet, the response from labor advocates and the labor movement has been rather muted. One reason for this, Callaci argues, is that Biden’s labor antitrust policy treats perfect competition as its primary aim, while labor progressives have long recognized the clear limitations of perfect competition as a normative benchmark. In the latter’s view, power is neither an aberration nor a distortion to an otherwise perfectly functioning labor market; the role of policy is not to stamp out rents, but rather to ensure that they are shared fairly; and monopsony power is far from the only kind of employer power with which we should be concerned. Fortunately, for the future of progressive competition policy, there is another tradition in antitrust that is more suited to finding common ground with labor’s needs – not incidentally, this vision of antitrust is much closer to the one held by many LPE scholars.

And on Wednesday, Julia Tomassetti offered a political economy perspective on two new federal rules about who counts as an employee. In the past half-year, both the NLRB and DOJ have rolled back Trump-era employment classification rules. To an outsider, these changes might seem pedantic or inconsequential. After all, why should so much ride on the distinction between having “entrepreneurial opportunity” versus “rendering services as part of an independent business”? A political economy perspective, however, reveals a deeper logic: the new rules seek to address some pernicious trends in employment classification—the ability of businesses to manipulate the inherent ambiguity in trying to treat employment like a contract, the ascension of the ideology of human capital, and the norm of the arbitrage economy. Indeed, the recent employment status wars, Tomassetti argues, are really about how we contend with the contradictions of late capitalism.

In LPE Land

The 2024 Law and Organizing Academy (LOA) – a joint endeavor of The LPE Project, The Action Lab, and NYU Law’s Initiative for Community Power – welcomes applications from rising 2Ls and 3Ls in the New York area. The Academy, which is free to attend, will take place Monday, May 20 through Thursday, May 23 in upstate New York. The program will include intro sessions on law and organizing, law and political economy, and theories of change; workshop-style training in foundational organizing skills such as power-mapping; discussion and analysis of tenant organizing, campaigns for decarceration, and labor organizing; and much else! Applications due Feb. 29.

In Dissent, Sam Moyn and Ryan Doerfler argue that the risks of calling on politicians to push back against the court must be weighed against the present reality of a malign judicial dictatorship.

And if you enjoyed that piece, you’re absolutely going to love our new open course/reading group, What to Do About the Courts, which kicks off this coming Tuesday (Jan 30). The first session will address “The Problem of the Court” with Nikolas Bowie, the Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. The course is FREE and OPEN TO ALL. All you need to do is register here.

In N+1, Andrew Elrod introduced the new hit podcast, Fragile Juggernaut, a collective inquiry into the CIO and the history of the US workers’ movement. Featuring LPE favorites: Tim Barker, Andrew Elrod, Ben Mabie, Alex Press, Emma Teitelman, and Gabriel Winant.

Two noteworthy amici curiae filed in the upcoming Supreme Court case, NetChoice v. Paxton. Here’s the first (from Richard John, Matthew Lawrence, Lawrence Lessig, Zephyr Teachout, and Tim Wu), and here’s the second (from Tara Pincock, Sandeep Vaheesan, and Jay Himes).

There was a new deposit in our syllabus bank (remember that gold mine?): Law and the Global Political Economy, organized by brilliant Yale SJD students (Akshat Agarwal & Xiaolu Fan).

Over at Legal Form, Fernando Quintana attempted to use Pashukanis’ critique of the legal form as a theoretical basis for reflection on the problem of political strategy.

And at Inquest, Charlotte Rosen reviewed The Jail is Everywhere, a new volume on the quiet jail boom, and those organizing against it, across the United States.