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LPE Originals

What to Watch: The Thirteen Best Panels Streaming This Weekend

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.

LPE Originals

The Carceral Conjuncture in Central Appalachia

As a result of jail and prison expansion in Eastern Kentucky, the region has become a center of gravity in the fight over the future of the carceral state. To understand this carceral boom, we need to appreciate how multiple crises have converged in Eastern Kentucky to produce a historical moment – a conjuncture – in which prisons and jails serve as putative solutions to a variety of social and economic problems.

LPE Originals

Rural and Racialized: How Property Law Perpetuates Racial Disparities

Research on racial disparities tends to focus on the urban, constructing an important story of race-based segregation and inequality that takes place on the city block or the suburban cul-de-sac. But with nearly all farmland in America (98%) owned by white people, these same racial dynamics are just as important to contemporary generational wealth disparities for rural people. It is thus critical to understand not only how property law has historically constructed these patterns of racial difference but also the role that property law continues to play in maintaining these disparities.

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Development for Some, Disaster for Others: The Case for Reparations

Central to Táíwò’s case for reparations is the idea of inertia. This is a useful message for economists, particularly of the mainstream bent, to hear. Without significant changes in the social provisioning processes, wealth and advantage, along with poverty and disadvantage, will continue to accumulate. No marginal change in a tax code or behavioral nudge will induce the radical change that is necessary for those accumulations to reverse course. Instead, we must be guided by a “worldmaking” philosophy, one that seeks to build a just world on a global scale.

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What Will Worldmaking Require?

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?

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Reconsidering the Future

Reconsidering Reparations offers several sound policy proposals about how to pursue reparations and climate justice. Yet its main contribution to the realm of climate politics has little to do with policy. Rather, it’s about a way of situating oneself in historical time. Unlike ordinary philosophical parables that freeze time and abstract away from specific places (think of the “trolley problem” or the “veil of ignorance”), Táíwò is arguing that the big picture is always historical, and always spatially complex. This shift in orientation will change how we see environmental or climate issues, but it will also change how we see much else.

LPE Originals

Reconsidering 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.

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Race and Profit in the Civil Courts

The relationship between the criminal legal system and racial subordination has been well-documented. Much less attention has been paid, however, to racial subordination perpetuated by the civil legal system. In a wide range of cases, including eviction, debt collection, and child support, civil courts routinely extract resources from poor, predominately Black communities, and transfer them to white-controlled corporations or to the state itself. Although some of this occurs through the substance of the law, how the courts interpret and implement the law plays an equally important role.

LPE Originals

The House Always Wins: The Algorithmic Gamblification of Work

Recent technological developments are transforming the basic terms of worker compensation. Rather than receive a salary or predictable hourly wage, workers in the on-demand economy are often paid using opaque and constantly fluctuating formulas, allowing firms to personalize and differentiate wages in order to influence worker behavior. These payment schemes violate long-established norms of fairness, undermine economic stability, and make it nearly impossible for workers to predict or understand their compensation. As a result, many workers now experience their jobs as a form of gambling, in which they are being tricked into working longer for less.

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Where the Law Falls Short: The Value of an Interdisciplinary Approach to Problem Solving

Many of us went to law school in the hopes of acquiring the tools necessary to contest and overhaul systems of oppression that have harmed our families and communities. The law, as we saw it, was the means or site of resolution. Yet for the increasingly complex and interconnected social problems that face our communities, traditional means of lawyering through direct services and litigation are often insufficient and ill-fitting. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, Berkeley’s Policy Advocacy Clinic is able to locate creative, non-litigation strategies to address systemic racial, economic, and social injustice.

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Designing an Emancipatory Clinic

By helping students understand the broad extractive forces that shape the lives of precarious communities under racial capitalism, CUNY’s Community & Economic Development Clinic seeks to train not just technicians, but movement lawyers who partner with grassroots organizing groups.

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Reaching Beyond the Binary to Find Humanity

The criminal legal system functions by separating acts of harm and violence into two opposed sides—“perpetrator” and “victim”—and lining up legal workers to vindicate one side’s rights to the exclusion of the other. This approach puts forth a scarcity model of justice, in which attending to harm is a zero-sum game. But if we wish to train our students to think holistically about justice, we must encourage them to appreciate the vast range of harms caused by the the criminal legal system.

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Leveraging Law School Clinics Against Family Policing

Every year, the American family policing system separates roughly half a million children from their parents. This system, though long overlooked, is increasingly being recognized for what it is: a way to control and terrorize politically marginalized communities. To date, however, challenges to family policing have largely focused on state agencies as the primary actors in this system, and courtrooms as the primary battleground, while paying less attention to other driving forces like capitalism, public-private relationships, and the powerful investigative and administrative structures in which the judicial venue is nested. Taking the lead from abolitionist’s broader work that seeks to fundamentally re-draw relationships and the distribution of resources, law school clinics should similarly expand their advocacy beyond now well-trod legal paths.

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Law Clinics and Racial Capitalism

Law schools are disorienting spaces, particularly for those who arrive seeking tools for justice and transformation. The basic 1L curriculum is steeped in our country’s history of settler colonialism and slavery, and the law taught in the first year largely constitutes a legal infrastructure that has fostered and protected racial capitalism. This symposium highlights how law clinics can disrupt that infrastructure and build toward emancipatory futures.

LPE Originals

Bankruptcy as Social Safety Net

By paying greater attention to who files bankruptcy, we can learn a great deal about the social and economic disparities that plague our society. By reforming and expanding access to bankruptcy, we can chip away at some of these disparities.