Skip to content

Weekly Roundup: July 29, 2022


At the Blog

On Monday, Jay Clayton offered what some are calling ‘a bracing wake-up call,’ arguing that the LPE movement has paid insufficient attention to public ownership as part of its vision for a new, more democratic economic order. As he writes, “This lack of interest is misplaced. Without advocating for public ownership, the LPE movement will be unable to challenge the failure of capitalist markets in a wide variety of sectors, and it will run the risk of being left behind as other groups on the left prioritize nationalization and municipalization campaigns. More to the point, public ownership’s critics are misguided. Public ownership can be more than just another tool in the policy toolbox—it can be an answer to pivotal questions of what democracy and the economy should look like.”

On Tuesday, Laura Phillips Sawyer discussed William Novak’s recent book, New Democracy: The Creation of the Modern American State. Novak’s work, she argues, successfully demonstrates that the long progressive era’s approach to economic regulation should be understood as involving a reconfiguration in the very nature of modern American capitalism. However, in developing this sweeping thesis, his account at times loses sight of the different visions of state, economy, and democracy that comprised the progressive project. The progressive moment was, for instance, opposed to monopoly power, but those like Brandeis were committed to the devolution of economic power from large to smaller business units, while those like Roosevelt embraced bureaucratic control of large firms. These intra-progressive disagreements mattered for policymaking and persist into the present day (see Monday’s post!).

And on Thursday, Kathleen Kim concluded our symposium on Erin Hatton’s Coerced: Work Under Threat of Punishment, by demonstrating how the idea of “status coercion” can help us make sense of the coercion faced by human trafficked workers. As she writes, “Examining human trafficking through the lens of ‘status coercion’ reveals how a trafficked worker’s social position undergirds their subjugation. Undocumented and/or marginalized by race, gender, and class, trafficked workers are often targets of exclusionary legal regimes that structurally coerce them into exploitative work arrangements. For example, an immigrant worker’s undocumented status may relegate them to a workplace where their employer overlooks their lack of work authorization in exchange for the worker’s acceptance of substandard working conditions. Punitive immigration laws like the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act position employers as de facto immigration officers, allowing them to wield threats of deportation that coerce workers into involuntary labor.”

In LPE Land

Brian Callaci and Sandeep Vaheesan argue that, after forty years of deflationary, wage-suppressing neoliberal policies, we shouldn’t abandon workers after a few months of inflation.

In a rare NYT op-ed that isn’t about cancel culture, Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein explains how Alabama’s tax system, which relies on fines and fees that disproportionately fall on its poorest citizens, is the result of a Constitution re-written by wealthy landowners and businessmen in 1874.

Over at Legal Form, Nate Holdren recently kicked off a miniseries on the ‘constitutive’ nature of law. Required reading for anyone interested in the co-constitution of law and political economy.