At the Blog
On Monday, Claire Dunning looked back at the emergence of the non-profit industrial complex, and explained why government grants are a poor vehicle for reinforcing fundamental rights. In the postwar city, where segregation persisted and demands for freedom and equality grew, fears of an “urban crisis” prompted a government response in the form of expanded federal government grant programs. While these programs provided much-needed goods and services, they also left communities dependent on the whims of bureaucrats and private philanthropy. As Dunning argues, “The patchwork nature of this approach proved no match for structural problems that exceeded the reach and capacity of neighborhood-based organizations. Further, the cumulative impact of underwriting nonprofit programs with temporary, discretionary funding cast the efforts as optional luxuries rather than essential functions of government and reified the needs of populations traditionally excluded from the full rights of citizenship as best met by private, nonprofit supplement rather than by a more expansive, more equal government provision.” What we need, she argues, is a wider reimagining of what public goods are and who should provide them.
On Tuesday, as part of our series with Inquest on Carceral Labor, Lisa Knox, Hamid Yazdan Panah, and Serafin Andrade Lopez discussed how immigrants detained in California have have teamed up with legal advocates to fight against their exploitation as workers, and what lessons we can draw from this innovative organizing and advocacy. As they describe, detained workers in Mesa Verde and Golden State Annex have been on strike since last summer, protesting the meager pay they receive and the terrible conditions under which they work and live. These actions have been bolstered by strategic litigation—which has argued that, under California law, detained workers are employees entitled to minimum wage—and policy campaigns, which have resulted in legislation that requires all private detention facilities to abide by the standards of care in their contracts, and allows individuals to sue private operators for violations of these standards.
And, on Thursday, in the concluding post of the series, Noah Zatz argues that analyzing the carceral state as a system of labor governance not only deepens our understanding of imprisonment but also revises standard accounts of labor markets, which in turn creates new ways to understand organized labor’s interests in rolling back the exercise of carceral power. As he observes, “a vast swath of ostensibly free labor, especially among low-wage workers, occurs under immediate threat of state violence.” Once we appreciate this fact, we can see why anti-carceral unionism is most likely to emerge not from broad fears that incarcerated labor will somehow substitute for and degrade “free labor,” but instead from the fact of shared workplaces and workplace struggles.
In LPE Land
Today at 10am: for LPE friends old and new at LSA, make sure to check out the roundtable on Law and Political Economy 101, feat. Raúl Carrillo, Angela Harris, Amy Kapcyznski, and Diana Reddy, who will be discussing their respective entry points into the LPE movement, as well as key analytical “moves” within LPE scholarship, and what it means to think, research, write, and teach within an LPE framework more broadly. At the Caribe Hilton, in the Beach Wing – San Gerónimo A.
In the Boston Review, Simon Torracinta reviews Anton Jäger and Daniel Zamora Vargas’s Welfare for Markets: Welfare for Markets: A Global History of Basic Income.