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Yearly Roundup: Editors’ Picks, Part 2


As the final post in our series of roundups at the end of 2020, here are the final two editors’ picks.

Sarang Shah

Despite the several obstacles imposed by the pandemic, the Law and Political Economy community has continued to grow, and LPE as an approach to legal analysis and critique has found ways to situate itself in a world in crisis. From Black Lives Matter to bail reform and re-envisioning the criminal legal system, from Covid-19 to industrial meat production, from high theory to practice, I have admired how this community has stepped up to the challenge of this extraordinary, difficult year. The heroic output of the blog this year makes it difficult for me to choose a mere handful of my favorites. Instead, I’d like to offer a few posts published this year that have informed my most recent projects.

First, I had the privilege to work with Emma Caterine, Raúl Carillo, and Ashley Burke on this series on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and Stephanie Kelton’s book The Deficit Myth. Their work has helped expand my horizons as to how incorporating MMT into our policy toolbox may help us respond to our crises in housing, social reproduction, the environment, and more.

As a fellow at Open Markets Institute, I enjoyed several opportunities to engage with the development of the antimonopoly tradition for a twenty-first century economy. Erik Peinert’s piece on international antitrust and Sandeep Vaheesan’s piece on how antitrust can once more be a tool for fairness and democracy were helpful contributions to my own project of refactoring competition law from an anti-domination, pro-democratic first-principles foundation.

In organizing LPE 101 events at Berkeley, one of the most useful contributions on the blog was this symposium on LPE Methods. In particular, David Ciepley on property and corporate sovereignty, Jamee Moudud on the constitutional theory of the business enterprise, and Neil Fligstein on the sociology of markets have entered into my usual repertoire of blog posts to share with those who are new to the moves of LPE from an academic lens.

Finally, I wanted to highlight these posts on democracy by Katharine Jackson: the first on situating the role of democracy in LPE, the second on what makes an administrative agency democratic. I have been surprised to find myself focused on the meaning of democracy these past several months. Whether it was researching the legal history of credit instruments, the law of vertical restraints, the rise of the conservative legal movement, or the legal institutionalization of money, I always wound up trying to sort out what democracy and collective self-rule could mean for me and for our economy. Especially since these questions about democratic sovereignty and governance are the sites of contestation that may help distinguish LPE from a mere mood of legal thought. Kate’s posts have offered valuable trail maps to my continuing explorations.

The emancipatory potential of LPE and the space LPE cultivates for curiosity and imagination have been my lodestar through law school, especially this year. More importantly, the people I have come to know, to rely on, and to commiserate and strategize with in this community have been the filamentary web stretched across the world that has more than once caught my fall during this challenging year. So to all of you, my gratitude and may we continue to build a more just world in the new year.

Luke Herrine

I will not even attempt Sarang’s graceful integration of his favorites into a coherent essay. Instead, a bulleted list Here are the posts that most relate to my own preoccupations that I’ve learned the most from:

  • What Makes an Administrative Agency “Democratic” by Kate Jackson. Because of a particular project I have been working on related to the Federal Trade Commission, I have been thinking a fair amount about how to think about administrative discretion, expertise, and moral authority. This post has forced me to rethink a whole number of questions. I’m not sure I ultimately agree with Kate’s endpoint, but the questions she poses and the way she frames them should force anybody with any familiarity with the administrative state to think about their perspective more deeply
  • The whole LPE Methods symposium. When I put this symposium together with Jeff Gordon, we were excited for the possibilities. But it exceeded our hopes. And we didn’t even get all the posts we had planned for! To me, the questions asked here–how do we think about the structure of economic governance once we leave behind neoclassical (and perhaps classical) political economy altogether–are some of the most important questions that LPE-ish scholars can ask. Ideally, doing so will create space for finding new connections between familiar analytical frames and new analytical frames for familiar phenomena.
  • On Socializing the Constitution of Economic Coordination by Sanjukta Paul. Earlier this year, Frank Pasquale described Sanjukta as the Ronald Coase of the emerging LPE movement. I agree entirely. Sanjukta’s “coordination rights” framework and her rigorous insistence on resisting familiar ways of thinking about how markets work have been enormously important to my own thinking. In this post, Sanjukta highlights how her style of thinking forces open new questions about the relationship between constitutional law and economic regulation, including strong arguments for revisiting a third rail of Constitutional law: Schechter Poultry
  • Coordination Rights Beyond Nation States by Erik Peinert. This post–and Erik’s research more generally–creates the space for important conversations about how coordination rights can be allocated and structured outside the familiar boundaries in which domestic legal systems work. As a bonus, Erik has provided an important reconsideration of the role of the NRA in structuring postwar antimonopoly thinking, domestically and internationally.
  • Climate Change and Racial Capitalism by Carmen Gonzalez. I first heard Carmen present these ideas at a conference preparing for the first issue of JLPE, and she blew me away. She she noted at that conference, is an area of writing and research that we desperately need more of. Anybody seeking to contribute to that line of thinking should begin here.
  • Tax Havens: Legal Recoding of Colonial Plunder by Vangessa Ogle. One of the things we’ve hoped to facilitate at the LPE Blog is to bring adjacent critical/left conversations together. This post–and the article it summarizes–show how how effective a combination of Pistor-style analysis of legal coding of capital, a close reading of colonial and postcolonial history, and attention to the way that racialization is constantly reconstructed to maintain the positions of powerful actors can be.
  • “Long Live Farmer-Laborer Unity” by Veena Dubal and Navyug Gill. We don’t usually do news analysis or have interviews this long on the blog, but it felt so important to get the details about what is going on in India out into the world and Navyug’s analysis is so elegant and powerful. This was an absolute pleasure to participate in. As a bonus, there are a lot of important themes about market governance and coordination rights lurking beneath the surface…

Happy new year! To a better 2021.