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LPE Originals

Abolitionism as a Question of Citizenship

The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments extended citizenship to formerly enslaved persons. But what did this status entail? In the subsequent political debates over abolition, one view carried the day: a contract and property-based notion of citizenship that fortified rather than unsettled antebellum era social relations. To realize the promise of Reconstruction today, we need a bolder vision of citizenship, one rooted not in marketplace imaginaries but in the elusive yet powerful concept of human dignity.

LPE Originals

The U.S.-Mexico Border as a Crisis of Social Reproduction

Despite what you may have heard on Fox News or read in the New York Times, the crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico is neither about the border, nor about migrants’ impact on the country. Rather, the staging of a border crisis is an attempt by Republicans (and unwitting democrats) to put in place new machinery of social reproduction.

LPE Originals

Cruel, But Not Unusual, Market Foundations

Private equity firms, cloaked under protective securities laws, have increasingly acquired companies that provide goods and services in U.S. jails and prisons. But it is the legal construction of prisoners’ rights that has enabled this market to take the particular form that it has, turning community ties into steady payment streams. In particular, Eighth Amendment jurisprudence, which has affirmed the constitutionality of pay-to-stay fees, has transformed the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment into a (subordinating) right to credit.

LPE Originals

The Latest US Export to Brazil? Legalized Labor Exploitation

Multinational platform companies, including Uber, iFood, Rappi, and 99, are currently pushing to export the United States’ most exploitative new labor laws to Brazil. Lawmakers should reject these attempts. As empirical evidence from the U.S. context shows, adopting a new “intermediate” worker category would be disastrous for low-income workers, and as Courts around the world have found, platform companies exert high levels of control over their workers and thus should be subject to standard labor and employment regulations.

LPE Originals

The Profits of Family Policing and Punishment

When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton reportedly replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” To understand our current system of family policing and punishment, we similarly need begin from the idea that this is a profit-focused system, one that extracts resources by investigating, surveilling, prosecuting, and separating low-income families.

LPE Originals

Under the Guise of Care

The carceral state is in a deep legitimacy crisis, with questions about its proper function up for public debate, and social movements pushing for care, public safety, and accountability. Municipalities, meanwhile, are experimenting with non-police responses to varied social problems. These efforts are important: they signal that abolitionist organizing and social insurgency have built sufficient power that the political elite has had to respond. But as Dorothy Roberts and Wendy Bach teach us, care often provides cover for criminalization, and the deployment of professional services often works hand in glove with systems of punishment.

LPE Originals

Building a World Without Family Policing

Far from promoting the well-being of children, the so-called child welfare system weaponizes children as a way to threaten families, to scapegoat parents for societal harms to their children, and to buttress the racist, patriarchal, and capitalist status quo. Torn Apart tears off the benevolent veneer of family policing to reveal its political reality and argues that it must be abolished. To achieve this end, we need a paradigm shift in the state’s relationship to families — a reimagining of the very meaning of child welfare.

LPE Originals

Toward Prefigurative Lawyering

Our current moment, filled with peril for all but those with extreme wealth, is one that calls for radical experimentation with utopian institutional and social forms – what are sometimes referred to as “prefigurative” projects. Yet legal education and dominant legal practices tend to constrain the imaginative capacities necessary for such projects. To overcome these constraints, lawyers and law students must learn to engage in shared social analysis with movement partners.

LPE Originals

From Work in Prison to Carcerality at Work

How might organized labor be engaged in ending mass incarceration? One approach is to emphasize how carceral labor is exploited as a substitute for rights-bearing “free labor.” But the mere threat of substitution does not ensure solidarity. A more promising avenue is to consider how carcerality itself extends into so-called “free” labor markets. Under this “carceral labor continuum,” anti-carceral unionism emerges not from broad concerns over economic substitution but instead from the practical demands of workplace organizing.

LPE Originals

Untangling the Nineteenth-Century Roots of Mass Incarceration

Popular historical narratives often trace the origins of penal labor to the post-Civil War South. Yet as insightful and politically useful as this familiar story may be, it overlooks the vast system of forced penal servitude that took shape in the antebellum North. Untangling the nineteenth-century roots of mass incarceration and forced labor can help clarify the shifting dynamics of expropriation, exploitation, and racialization across the long history of the U.S. carceral state.

LPE Originals

Not Worker, But Chattel

In this essay, the author draws on his experiences as an incarcerated organizer to argue for the importance of a Black abolitionist politic that resists both “work” and the adoption of the “worker” identity. Instead, the category of the slave-in-revolt is better suited to the project of abolitionist organizing.

LPE Originals

Labor and the Carceral State

How can we understand mass incarceration as a system of labor governance? This post introduces our new symposium on “carceral labor” by offering an empirical and conceptual overview of the different ways in which the carceral state structures and compels work, both in and beyond the prison.

LPE Originals

On the Place of Racial Capitalism in China’s Northwestern Frontier

Though its contemporary theorization emerged from Cedric Robinson and other scholars of the Black Radical Tradition, racial capitalism is neither an idea somehow restricted to the U.S. or Europe, nor an idea that can be provincialized solely within the processes and structures of Western colonial expropriation and exploitation. Rather, this approach can help us understand the immense expansion of securitization and forced assimilation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, not as an aberration, but as the logical extension of Han settler capitalist development strategies since at least the early 1990s.