In a recent post, Carly Knight argues that resuscitating the vision of the corporation as a “creation of the state” is an important part of reclaiming the progressive argument for increased corporate accountability. In this response, Dan Rohde suggests that, rather than subscribe to one unified theory of “the corporation,” progressives would be better served by attending to the roles and purposes that the huge variety of legal entities play in our society, and determining their rights, protections, and powers accordingly.
Amy Kapczynski and Wendy Brown discuss the value of democracy, the role of the courts, and strategies for democratizing our political economy.
International law has a thriving critical scene, arguably bigger and more institutionally established than any other field. Yet political economy has been an unstable point of focus for critical international lawyers, in part because the justifications of the status quo in the international domain never coalesced into anything akin to a ‘21st-century synthesis.’ This picture of fragmentation and instability helps explain why Marxism provides a useful set of intellectual tools for approaching law, in particular, and social formations in general.
Previously recognized as quasi-public institutions whose shareholders received corporate privileges in exchange for the fulfillment of public goods, corporations are today primarily understood to be private economic actors. This conceptual shift is in some ways quite puzzling. Despite the changing nature of the relationship between states and corporations throughout the 19th century, corporate business entities always, in practice, remained embedded in state and political institutions. How, then, did the image of the corporation as a “creature” or a “creation” of the state come to be replaced with an understanding of the corporation as a “pure creature of the market”?
Two different mortal threats to democracy have been on vivid display this past year: Trump’s January 6 insurrection and the Supreme Court’s rampage through statutory and constitutional law. Considering these events on split-screen raises some uncomfortable questions about LPE analysis of democracy, law, and courts. In particular, certain law-is-just-politics views deployed to dismiss the Court seem to foreclose criticism of Trump’s attempted coup as lawless. More generally, for democratic institutions to assert and receive primacy requires some conception of law that does not just dissolve back into “politics.”
In her earlier work, Marta Russell called readers attention to the economy as a factor producing disablement and argued that we needed to re-embed the market in society, to tame businesses’ need to profit via the social policies of an interventionist state. By the end of her career, however, Russell had gone further, focusing on capitalism itself. Her solution expressed not a Polanyian ideal of a somewhat more egalitarian capitalism, but a Marxist aspiration to a vastly better and more egalitarian society, achievable only by ending capitalism through collective action.
The modern disability rights movement has been primarily oriented around seeking labor inclusion through the expansion of civil rights statutes. Despite this, few disability theorists have approached the study of disability from an explicitly political economic perspective. Marta Russell, the author of several groundbreaking but lesser-known works on disability and capitalism, is one of the rare exceptions. This symposium celebrates her work and encourages the rediscovery of the political economy of disability.
In a society as deeply divided as our own, it is fanciful to think that we will be able to deliberate our way to a consensus. To resolve the longstanding puzzle of the administrative state’s democratic legitimacy, we need to resist the neoliberal impulse to erase politics and, instead, design opportunities for genuine contestation.
“It is not true that the U.S. Constitution has little to say about our economic rights and liberties – let alone our material welfare. Instead, as Fishkin and Forbath argue convincingly, the Constitution has nourished a democracy-of-opportunity tradition that places our equal social rights front-and-center in constitutional practice and politics.”
If one spends too much time around mainstream economists, one might be inclined to think the whole idea of a state enforcing norms of fair price is either redundant or perverse. But we know better than that.
The historical high-tides for the domestic experience of democracy-of-opportunity have occurred during periods of territorial and global expansionism. A serious effort to recover this tradition entails engaging with its imperial dimensions.
The annual ranking of the world’s richest highlights the often dramatic shifts, upwards and downwards, in the net wealth of elites. What do these fluctuations tell us about the nature of the things – the property – these elites own, and about the nature of property in contemporary capitalism?
Gerald Torres reflects on the ideas that animated the life of Lani Guinier.
Birds of a feather. Ships passing in the night. Sister species. How should we understand the relationship between LPE and the critical legal traditions?
Both law and technology have played a foundational role in constructing, maintaining, and extending neoliberal modes of governance. Technological implementations have given new life to the longstanding neoliberal separation of economic and political domains, and legal methods that have facilitated the neoliberal political economy have also enabled new technologies. As critiques of the centrality of neoliberal economic logic gain traction, we must take care that such work does not simply clear the path for an emerging hegemony of neoliberal computational logic. Instead, we must be attentive to proponents of the epistemic and political dominance of computational mechanisms, and we must critique them on similar grounds and with similar urgency. In addition, theories of the legal programs and methods required to democratize the economy must not ignore the role digital technologies may play in achieving these goals.