Critical Race Theorists have long been concerned with the dangers inherent to legal reform. Drawing on their insights, we should approach the struggle for non-reformist reforms not as a search for some self-evident formula, but as a practice that requires close and disciplined engagement with the social and economic conditions we seek to change.
Amna Akbar’s recent article on non-reformist reforms foregrounds a question that the LPE movement often bypasses: namely, how might systemic social change occur in the 21st century? However, in considering this question, the article erases nearly fifty years of theory-work between when André Gorz introduced the concept in the 1960s and when Akbar picks up the story. The experience of those fifty years and the theoretical reflections they generated have much to teach the legal left as it recovers the notion of non-reformist reform.
Today’s left social movements are increasingly turning to a framework of “non-reformist reform” to guide their efforts to build a just society. But what do non-reformist reforms require? How do they differ from liberal and neoliberal approaches to reform? And what role do law and lawyers have to play in advancing such reforms?