Sam Moyn has recently suggested that the LPE movement should embrace an underlying account of what law does — and by extension, an account of capitalism and the state. But no single theoretical perspective, however self-consistent and well fortified, can match the complexity of our world. If we are to acknowledge this reality without falling into social-theoretic nihilism, we must take seriously the practice of theoretical pluralism.
Are we liberals or low-key Marxists? What is our theory of the “capitalism” that we so often attack? And above all, how do we understand the role of law in the making and unmaking of social order? Sam Moyn kicks off a new year at the Blog by asking whether the Law and Political Economy movement needs deeper theoretical foundations than it has so far been willing to articulate.
LPE scholars and fellow travelers often call for a more democratic organization of power in our society. However, in specifying what this entails at the level of institutions, proposals commonly rely on two widespread but mistaken assumptions – the idea that more participation is necessarily more democratic, and the idea that democratizing decision-making within firms, political parties, and other mid-level institutions will enhance the quality of democracy in society at large.
This past year, Jackson has been the site of two separate yet related crises: a failed water system that has left approximately 150,000 residents without access to safe drinking water, and the takeover of the city’s police and court functions by white officials in the state government. Assessed together, these two episodes offer lessons about the challenges of local self-governance in a country awash with material inequality and the importance of pursuing political equality across as well as within jurisdictions.
With the spring submission season nearly in the books, and our Twitter feeds abuzz with placement announcements, the LPE Blog highlights some of the most exciting forthcoming LPE and LPE-adjacent articles. Covering tech, care, labor, criminal justice, religious freedom, money and banking, property, the administrative state, and so much more, this scouting report is not to be missed.
Forget Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Over the next three days, you’ll want to turn that dial to Law and Political Economy: Labor, Social Control, and Counterpower. From the comfort of your own home, stream panels on the legal regulation of data and technology, socialist constitutionalism, decarcerating the welfare state, and so much more. Zoom links for the various panels can be found within this post, along with some paired blog posts from our (vast) archive.
One the CLS movement’s most significant contributions was the theory of law’s inherent tendency towards indeterminacy. Yet, despite broad agreement about its importance, the thesis itself is frequently misunderstood. This confusion arises, in part, because CLS put forward two very different approaches to formulating the indeterminacy thesis. We can, however, unify these two approaches by regarding indeterminacy as a kind of collective experience that legal actors produce as part of their interpretative work, and fight for as part of their shared political projects.
Civil disobedience has long been a core dimension in the struggles against the ravages of the coal, oil, and natural gas industries in the rural United States. While Indigenous-led resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline is the most prominent recent example, the past decade has witnessed acts of civil disobedience in such far-flung locations as the Montana coalfields, the Keystone XL Pipeline in Texas, and pipelines in Minnesota and Louisiana. How should we make sense of these actions? And what can these acts of rural resistance teach us about our understanding of civil disobedience?
Building on Adom Getachew’s account of anticolonial “worldmaking,” Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò defends reparations as a worldmaking project aimed at creating a world free from domination. Yet given this ambition, his targets for climate justice seem, if anything, too modest: why stop with eliminating tax havens or endowing the Global Climate Fund? Why not aim at the reorganization of the global economy itself, as many anti-colonial leaders once did? And if we accept these broader ambitions, what political formations might plausibly advance the project of anticolonial climate reparations?
For better or worse, our world stands on the precipice of major changes. Our current energy system is driving a rapidly unfolding climate crisis, and the need for total transformation “at every level of society” is now the prevailing scientific opinion. Given this context, Reconsidering Reparations argues for two things. First, reparations for trans-Atlantic slavery and colonialism should be seen as a future-oriented project engaged in building a just social order. Second, if we accept that view, then reparations and the struggle for racial justice should be directly linked to the struggle for climate justice.
Through redistribution, or perhaps a scheme cooperative ownership, we can mitigate inequality while still harnessing the power of markets. This is, at least, the promise of market socialism. Yet all markets, even socialist markets, require its participants to act with a certain set of motives if they are to produce efficient outcomes. And it is these motives that inhibit us from caring about one another in our productive activities. To avoid such alienation, we must decommodify the means of production and reallocate control of capital from private corporations to local workers and municipalities.
Setting aside their habit of quoting Augustine, the post-neoliberal right can at times sound surprisingly like fellow travelers in their critique of the market. So how does their vision of life after neoliberalism differ from our own? And what does their arrival on the scene mean for the LPE movement?
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.