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Weekly Roundup: September 22, 2023


At the Blog

On Monday, Paul Gowder argued that existing proposals to break up big tech do not adequately take into account the way that could democratize these institutions. Antitrust breakups, he observes, work best when there’s a clear conflict between public and company interests, yet on several issues – such as the spread of disinformation – these interests plausibly converge. We should thus keep tech companies intact but improve their alignment with public interest by integrating the public directly into their governance systems. As Gowder writes, “Essentially, I’m proposing a kind of social democracy for platforms. By creating institutions that allow the public to exercise direct authority over the rules and enforcement processes of major technology companies, we can better ensure that those rules and processes are conducted not only in our interests but also effectively.”

On Tuesday, Ntina Tzouvala continued the unfolding conversation about LPE and legal theory by defending the idea of legal theory without capitalisation – a way of writing about law that is explicit about our assumptions, but that doesn’t necessarily count as conventional Legal Theory. As Tzouvala argues, LPE work only appears under-theorised if we accept an approach to legal theory that is associated with a particular genre of work: usually written with a high degree of abstraction, primarily in conversation with an existing body of Legal Theory, and orientated toward understanding something about law as a whole or a legal field in its totality, rather than about a specific piece of legislation, judgement, or social problem. If, instead, we endorse an idea of legal theory in her less elevated sense, then many LPE scholars have been analytically generous in presenting their understanding of law and political economy. Indeed, she suggests, “it may well be the case that this time Legal Theory will be constructed inductively, by systematising the valuable work being carried out in the realm of legal theory without capitalisation, rather than the other way around.”

And on Thursday, Yiran Zhang explained how the bureaucratic system through which the state provides long-term home care imposes under-recognized yet significant costs on recipients and workers alike. Confronted with an ever-expanding pool of people who need home care – roughly 27 million people in 2020 – the state delivers care and compensation for care work through a mode of governance featuring task-list enumeration, documentation, individual beneficiary framing, and professional supervision. This rigid, functional approach to valuing care is often at odds with home care’s relational, fluid, and person-centered dimensions. Moreover, as Zhang writes, “the welfare system’s distrust in both recipients and providers of home care leads it to understand accountability exclusively as fraud prevention… The scenario in which a low-income woman of color is working in the private home of a low-income individual with disability without any direct supervision almost automatically spurs the question of fraud to the welfare system. Throughout the program’s history, the Department of Health and Human Services has repetitively declared home care programs ‘particularly vulnerable to fraud,’ making the concerns about ‘fraud, abuse, and waste’ the top — and almost exclusive — priority in program design and enforcement.”

In LPE Land

Are you interested in LPE but smart enough not to give into the parental pressure to go to law school? Night School will introduce non-lawyers to LPE themes in 5 sessions (intro, labor, housing, race, gender, and the courts)! The first introductory session takes place at 6p, October 5 at the New School and will feature our own Amy Kapczynski and Corinne Blalock.

Over in the Atlantic, Ganesh Sitaraman asks, “What’s the deal with airline points?” His answer is that airlines have basically become quasi-banks, a sign of how badly deregulation has gone.

Our friends at Bill of Health are running a can’t miss symposium on Joanna Wuest’s recent book Born This Way: Science, Citizenship, and Inequality in the American LGBTQ+ Movement.

In Political Theory, Jessica Whyte reviews Quinn Slobodian’s Crack-up Capitalism.

The “highbrow quarterly magazine” known as the Boston Review launched a new forum on the idea of Solidarity, and how movements can build enough of it to change society.

Cool paper alert: Sanjukta Paul has posted a new draft, “Labor Law’s Theory of the Firm.”

The slow exodus to bluesky continues. If you’ve made the journey, follow us. Or cut out the intermediary and get your LPE news straight from the source by subscribing to the blog.