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Weekly Roundup: July 21, 2023


At the Blog

We had a banner first week of our symposium on Dorothy Roberts’s Torn Apart and Wendy Bach’s Prosecuting Poverty, Criminalizing Care.

On Monday, Dorothy Roberts kicked off the symposium by describing the long intellectual and activist journey that led her to call for the abolition of the family policing system. As she writes, “The facade of benevolence makes most Americans complacent about a colossal government apparatus that spends billions of dollars annually on surveilling families, breaking them apart, and thrusting children into a foster care system known to cause devastating harms. Even when President Trump’s cruel policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border drew national condemnation, hardly anyone connected it to the far more widespread family separation that takes place every day in Black neighborhoods.”

On Tuesday, Wendy Bach explained what we can learn about the criminalization of care – the proximity between our systems of care and punishment – from a ban on “fetal assault.” As she writes, “Few of the women convicted under the law received any treatment as part of their criminal case. Instead, they got what the criminal system almost always delivers: probation, jail, and thousands of dollars in criminal debt. At the same time, these same women were subject to a family policing system that equated their substance use during pregnancy with severe abuse and as grounds for rapid termination of their parental rights. To the extent that these deeply stigmatized women and others like them receive any care from our legal and social welfare systems, that care is corrupted by its location within or near punishment systems.”

On Wednesday, Amna Akbar wrote about the books as models of scholarship drawing from and in service to people’s struggles, and reflected on the general questions they raise about the state’s use of care as a cover for punishment. As she writes, “Another way the ripple effects of the 2020 rebellions and abolitionist organizing are being absorbed is the turn to professionalization. Social workers are being deployed to meet the call for ‘care not cops.’ Municipalities across the country are experimenting with non-police responses to varied social problems like mental health crises and traffic. These efforts are important: they signal that abolitionist organizing and social insurgency have built sufficient power that the political elite has had to respond. But professionalization and professional services will not redress the exploitation of capitalism or the violence of family policing. They may in some cases have conservatizing effects. Care and public safety are about a lot a more than expanding the professional managerial class.”

And on Thursday, Nancy Polikoff considered what it would mean to apply the principles of non-reformist reforms to academic scholarship itself. Scholars can, of course, write about the legislation and policy that they believe will advance transformative change. Yet, as she argues, the way a group seeks reform – how a group organizes and fights for political change – is as if not more important than the substance of the reform. Scholarship should thus highlight and analyze the work of organizers on the ground who are indispensable to achieving transformational change.

Stay tuned for more responses next week!

In LPE Land

Noah Rosenblum talked with Isaac Chotiner about Trump’s plan for the federal bureaucracy, how feasible it would be in a second Trump term, and how courts are likely to view it.

The FTC and more than 100 federal and state law enforcement partners announced Operation Stop Scam Calls, a nationwide enforcement sweep to crack down on illegal telemarketing calls.

Politics & Society published a special issue on “Antitrust in the Age of Concentrated Power,” featuring work by LPE favorites Kate Jackson, Zephyr Teachout, Sam Bagg, and Brian Callaci.

The Journal of Law and Political Economy seeks a freelance copy editor. Please click here for details.