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.
In their statement calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine, the UAW International Executive Board raised a tantalizing possibility: What if UAW workers were to divest their labor from the construction of weaponry? Under current labor law, how might workers make their complicity in the military-industrial complex a mandatory subject of bargaining?
The heuristic of non-reformist reform can help avoid ultra-leftism and create the possibilities for coalition, such as across groups who care about transparency. It can help us salvage the transformative potential of demands that seem to have lost their teeth. But to realize these ends without falling back into reformist pieties, the framework demands rigorous, context-specific thinking that eschews dogmatism.
Free speech at universities hangs in the balance. But defending it will require much more than just resisting the assaults coming from billionaires and right-wing influencers. It will require reconnecting with the purposes and highest aims of the academy and building a political economy of higher education that can begin to truly deliver on them.
Within prison abolitionist movements and discourse, the idea of non-reformist reform often serves as a litmus test for assessing campaign goals and strategies. Yet even here, activists need to think holistically about their obligations and strategies, as pursuing non-reformist reforms will sometimes conflict with our duties to mitigate harm in the here and now.
Every union has reason to address the high cost of housing, which diverts wage raises into profits for landlords, acts as a structural constraint on labor actions, and generally makes life worse for its members. And as UNITE HERE Local 11 has demonstrated, unions are well-positioned to address the problem: from spearheading local tenant ordinances to putting creative housing demands on the bargaining table, unions can lead the fight for affordable housing.
Earlier this year, a landlord presented a group of Kansas City tenants with the following choice: renew their leases at triple the rent or move. But rather than accept these terms, the tenants came together and declared “we won’t go.” This rejection of the options presented to them, originally a reflection of their desperation, soon became an expression of their power.
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.
Institutional leaders must affirm that advocacy for Palestinian rights, as well as concern for and celebration of Palestinian lives, is squarely within the sphere of legitimate discourse.
Recent efforts to suppress the expression of the most basic aspirations for Palestinian freedom offend not only civil libertarian commitments to free speech and related ideas of academic freedom, but, perhaps more surprisingly, civil rights commitments to nondiscrimination.
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, which has 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?
In late October, Florida banned chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine from operating on state university campuses. This ban, which alleges that the national organization provided material support to designated terrorist organizations, is unlikely to survive judicial scrutiny. Nevertheless, it represents a dangerous escalation of recent efforts to restrict the speech of pro-Palestine advocates, while providing a blueprint for the future repression of other disfavored groups.
In his recent post about the LPE Movement’s reticence toward legal theory, Sam Moyn speculates that this aversion may be born of a noble yet misguided deference towards grassroots social movements. Deference, however, does not capture the dynamic relationship between critical legal theory and radical political practice. One does not precede the other or take priority. Instead, from W.E.B. Du Bois to Michel Foucault to Angela Davis, our most important critical thinkers have always engaged in a productive back-and-forth, in which theory and practice constantly challenge, check, and transform each other.
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.