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Weekly Roundup: October 14, 2022


At the Blog

On Monday, Nate Holdren continued our symposium on Marta Russell and the Political Economy of Disability, reflecting on her role as a social movement intellectual, her intellectual journey from Polanyi to Marx, and her understanding of the capitalist state. Venturing some comradely criticisms of Russell’s Marxism, he writes, “Capitalists and the state are not a cohesive team colluding to oppress opposing teams; instead, the basic social architecture of capitalist society makes only undesirable outcomes possible…. Denizens of capitalist society are thus subjected to imperatives which create problems for everyone in society, though these problems are situationally-specific: the state’s problems are not the boss’s problems are not my problems as an employee, except to the degree that those above try to pass the consequences of their problems down the food chain – shit rolls down hill. This means that the problems Russell catalogued and denounced are more a matter of emergent properties, which result from relative planlessness and chaotic collisions among social actors in the grip of the social imperative to turn money into more money, rather than being due to coherent plans and strategies.”

On Tuesday, Ruth Colker extended Marta Russell’s prescient criticisms of the ADA by arguing that its reliance on individual enforcement, rather than universal design, makes it ill-suited to address mass-produced inaccessibility. As she writes, “Employers, public entities, and private businesses are allowed to ignore the inaccessible nature of their programs or activities until an individual with a disability seeks (or begs) for access…. In other words, the ADA sets up a reactive rather than pro-active model, which makes it very difficult to seek group-based remedies. The expectation is that reform will happen one person at a time with a multitude of defenses available to avoid making the requested accommodation or modification (unsurprisingly, cost is an available defense).”

And on Thursday, Larry Mishel provided an overview of an exciting new issue of the Journal of Law and Political Economy on Freedom of Contract and Unequal Workplace Power. The research in the issue “demonstrates that the power to quit does not prevent worker exploitation and that the circumstances that inhibit workers from quitting contribute to substantial, systematic employer power over wages and working conditions.”

In LPE Land

This coming Monday (October 17), Sara Nelson will be in conversation with Amy Kapczynski, discussing “Women and Unions: Solidarity is a Force Stronger Than Gravity.” 

Also on Monday, the Harvard Law and Political Economy Association will be hosting a virtual event on “Thinking Like a (LPE) Lawyer: Property Law.” Prof. Yochai Benkler will use specific doctrines and the overall structure of the 1L property syllabus to explain how the Law and Political Economy (LPE) framework differs from dominant approaches and brings justice back into the conversation.

The following day (Oct. 18), we will be holding a panel on the future of worker power with Sara Nelson, Lorena Lopez (UNITE HERE Local 11), Eric Blanc (Rutgers University), Charles Du (SEIU 32BJ), and Gabriel Winant (University of Chicago). It’s a hybrid event, so register now!

Can’t get enough worker power? Us neither – that’s why later that same day (at 4p ET), we’ll be tuning in to listen to Brishen Rogers, Larry Mishel, Suresh Naidu, and Angela Harris discuss the new issue of the JLPE.

Finally, your weekly reminder that private equity plans to extract as much value from your health needs as it can. Seems like a great system.