When All Social Problems Become Financial Problems

Sarah Quinn –

When it comes to government programs, credit support is often cheaper and less controversial than direct expenditures. Understand this, and you can understand why government officials have an incentive to define all sorts of social problems as financial ones.

Government officials face considerable pressure to promote credit markets. Wall Street firms leverage money, expertise and status to “capture” regulators. It is not only the rich and powerful who make demands on the state for easier access to credit: Farmers in the late 18th century, black activists fighting against redlining in the postwar era, access to credit cards in the 1930s– all have demanded that the governmental help them gain access to credit. When wages are low and welfare state support is stingy, families rely on easy credit to ride out hard times or even meet daily expenses. In the context of neoliberalism, credit access can be a kind of destructive consolation prize for workers with stagnant wages and frayed safety nets, as other scholars have noted.

Demands for easy credit are a crucial part of the story of credit allocation in any political economy, but they do not tell the whole story. That is because lawmakers have their own reasons for turning to credit as tool of statecraft, and those reasons help determine how, when and why government officials move credit and promote financial markets.

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Measuring the Sustainable Corporation

This post comes out of the early career workshop ‘Law and Political Economy in Europe’which took place at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, at the University of Oxford, on the 7th of October 2019. For all the posts this series, click here.

Federico Fornasari –

PoliticsineuropeThe impending climate crisis, the widespread social tensions and the burgeoning level of wealth and income inequalities have led to diffused discontent, both in the “global north and south” with the current neoliberal order. The role that the financialized corporation plays into this picture has taken a center stage in this discussion. The keyword of the debate has been “sustainability”: the exact meaning of the term remains fuzzy, whilst the legal strategies to enhance it are debated. One of the fundamental ingredients of sustainability is the disclosure of environmental, social and governance (henceforth, ESG) factors.

From a law and political economy perspective, we might ask: what is the role that corporate law and financial market regulation can play in transitioning to a greener economy and a fairer society? And specifically, can (and how to design) ESG factors disclosure to promote such a transition? Finally, how do specific conceptions of the corporation and its boundaries resurface through the designing of ESG indicators?

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Join LPE at Law & Society 2020

Join LPE at the Law & Society Conference in 2020 as we expand the Law and Political Economy CRN (55)!

There are only two and half days left to apply to the Law and Society Association (LSA) Conference, which will be held in Denver, Colorado, May 28 – May 30, 2020. All paper, panel, and session proposals must be submitted to the LSA by November 20 (11:59pm EST). Please submit your proposal directly to LSA through the portal at https://www.lsadenver2020.org/ As outlined below, we invite you to use our Collaborative Research Network (CRN 55) for Law and Political Economy which will allow us to minimize scheduling conflicts and highlight papers and panels related to Law and Political Economy themes at the conference.

Corinne Blalock (corinne.blalock@yale.edu) and Luke Herrine (luke.herrine@yale.edu) are co-chairing the LSA Conference Committee for the CRN, so please feel free to reach out to them with any questions!

Instructions for Applying to LSA as Part of the Law & Political Economy CRN

1. Background Information on the CRN.  We take a broad view of the scope of Law and Political Economy. All scholars with an interest in law and political economy are welcome to participate in our CRN’s events.  Presenting your paper as part of the CRN’s program generally means a better fit for your paper and a larger audience than leaving it to the larger program committee, and helps foster connections between our participants.

2. How to Join the Law and Political Economy Program for the 2020 Conference.  At the LSA conference in Denver, we hope to continue and expand the conversation with another series of panels and events.  To this end, we have identified several options for CRN members to submit papers and panels:

a. Submit a Complete Panel or Roundtable Proposal.  If you have organized a complete panel or roundtable session, please submit it directly to the LSA and select “CRN 55: Law and Political Economy” from the drop-down menu on the submissions page.  The LSA website details the submission process: https://www.lsadenver2020.org/types-of-submissionsPlease note that selecting CRN 55 is very important because it will help the LSA to schedule our panels in a way that minimizes conflicts. It is wise to include at least 5 paper abstracts in case someone has to cancel before the conference, because sessions with less than 4 papers may be moved to a “roundtable” that may be banished to a terrible room where nobody can hear each other speak.

b. Submit an “Author Meets Reader” Session for a Recent Book.  These sessions can be organized for books with a copyright in 2019 or later and require participation of the author, a chair, and a max of 2 readers.

c. Submit a Paper to be Placed in a Panel on the CRN. If you have a paper to submit, please submit it directly to the LSA and select “CRN 55: Law and Political Economy” from the drop-down menu on the submissions page. LSA will then send all papers under this CRN to us, and we will organize them into panels. The LSA website details the submission process: https://www.lsadenver2020.org/types-of-submissionsPlease note that selecting CRN 55 is very important. If you do not, you will not be included in any LPE panels.

Law and Political Economy in Europe: Transnationalizing the Discourse

The following set of posts comes out of the early career workshop ‘Law and Political Economy in Europe’, which took place at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, at the University of Oxford, on the 7th of October 2019. For all the posts this series, click here.

Ioannis Kampourakis –

Politicsineurope.jpgThe normative vision of Law and Political Economy (LPE) and its commitment to a more egalitarian and democratic society is shaped by its fundamental presuppositions. Contrary to a liberal understanding of markets as natural and neutral – that is, as prepolitical and apolitical – LPE builds on the realist project to expose the function performed by the law in the production and distribution of wealth. Approaching the market as a product of legal ordering means not only that juridical relations are constituent of social relations of production, but also that law structures the bargaining power of the groups competing over the distribution of the output of the production process. In this direction, law’s permissions, alongside its prohibitions, have distributive importance – law is never absent from the question of distribution; there is no moment of apolitical, neutral exchange between market participants. The emphasis on law’s constitutive role in the economy entails an implicit assumption that the law can also generate social transformation. If it is legal rules that establish a regime of socio-economic inequality and hierarchy, legal rules could also undo it.

From these starting points, LPE develops as a methodology, rather than as an exclusive set of research topics. Considering the ever-presence of the law in questions of distribution means that every area of legal research and analysis will eventually have underlying distributive and power-structuring effects. While this is more obvious in certain fields than others, all legal structures have an unavoidable political economy aspect, manifested through the binary of prohibition/permission and its social consequences.

Nevertheless, LPE has so far remained framed by the priorities and theoretical inquiries of U.S. legal scholarship. The workshop at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, at the University of Oxford aspired to contribute to the transnationalization of the discourse by assessing its relevance for Europe.

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Friday Roundup

The latest in LPE World:

– LPE Blog

An Environmentalism for LPE: Jed Purdy’s This Land is Our Land

Conor Dwyer Reynolds – 

Grand Canyon National Park: Mather Point Pano 03Law and political economy is on a roll. The Law & Political Economy Project is about to host its inaugural conference. The Association for the Promotion of Political Economy and the Law has launched a journal dedicated to LPE scholarship. LPE student organizations at law schools across the country have sprouted. After two years, this blog has generated a critical mass of LPE thinking on subjects from sex work to environmental law. And now, the movement can lay claim to its first book in the latter subject: Jed Purdy’s This Land is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth.

This Land explores our many social crises by tracing their relationships to land. In exploring our problems, ourselves, and the earth beneath us, Purdy finds that all of it is inextricably bound together. This Land reveals that the soils of our cities are poisoned with segregation of race and class, our rivers are suffocated by debris strewn by extractive economics, and our air is infused with emissions of our collective consumption. The cause is our economy, “the way we organize our world,” a network of power which distributes resources and capabilities across the planet.

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Restricting Women’s Autonomy in the Name of “Eugenics”

Mindy Roseman –

aclu

(via ACLU)

The public/private dichotomy—so fundamental to the liberal political and economic order—produces many (if not all) of our lived contradictions, especially our experiences of inequality along the multiple and intersecting lines of race, sex, gender, class, able-bodiedness, and so on. It should come as no surprise that where the private decision making of women is at issue, the privilege of freedom from state and third party interference has been hard-fought and never fully achieved. U.S. Constitutional and state level jurisprudence on abortion is predicated on the women “in consultation with their doctors,” choosing whether to carry their pregnancies to term. This provisional grant of autonomy has provided the logic for a continual legislative claw back of the abortion right: a right to decide but not to realize (Harris v. McCrae); a right to decide but only upon the due burden of state mandated reflection and guidance (Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania); a right to decide but not to elect the safest procedure (Gonzales v. Carhart). Women, this jurisprudence affirms, no matter their race or class, cannot be trusted.

Mistrust in women runs deep in current legislative efforts to wrest their private decision-making autonomy away. It hardly announces itself as such in the bills; rather, it comes to us through an appeal to humane and liberal values that impart to abortion-access restrictions an air of legitimacy. The latest obfuscation—restricting abortion in the name of combating “eugenics”—recently surfaced anew in the 6th Circuit’s decision in Preterm-Cleveland v. Himes, decided two weeks ago. The case concerns H.B. 214, an Ohio law that criminalizes abortions of Down syndrome affected pregnancies. Doctors who know (or have reason to know) that the woman wishes to terminate a pregnancy because of a Down syndrome diagnosis, and perform such an abortion risk a felony conviction, 18 months’ imprisonment, license revocation, and civil penalties. The U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction against its implementation and enforcement, which the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld, 2 to 1.

I will not review the reasoning behind the two-judge majority opinion. Instead, the dissent deserves unpacking, as it may well be echoed in any eventual Supreme Court review. This dissent is particularly noteworthy because of the way its adoption of language with a traditionally emancipatory valence is meant to misdirect. What appear to be individual, private decisions are in fact conditioned by state policy. Much turns on state action. This case highlights how abortion opponents intentionally confuse individual decision-making and state policy, with an aim to legitimate unwarranted interference in the exercise of women’s autonomy. Ohio H.B. 214 shifts our attention away from what the state is and is not doing for pregnant people and for the children they bear, and burden their individual decision making instead.

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Friday Roundup

Greetings, friends!

Recent media that might be of interest:

  • For a look at market fundamentalism through the story of The Economist magazine, check out this article from the New Yorker.
  • book review of Bhaskar Sunkara’s The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality
  • See the October 31 episode of Doug Henwood’s podcast, covering the ongoing social upheaval in Chile
  • In case you missed it, an extended interview with historian Donna Haraway on “Truth, Technology, and Resisting Extinction”
  • A review of Sandra G. Mayson’s article Bias In, Bias Out, on racially biased algorithmic risk assessments that government actors have used to inform decisions in criminal investigations and proceedings

Additionally, if you’d like a grant to research whether and how inequality affects economic growth and stability, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth has just announced its 2020 Request for Proposals. Their core areas of interest are: human and capital well-being, the labor market, macroeconomic policy, and market structure.

– LPE Blog

The Need for Neodemocracy

William J. Novak and Stephen W. Sawyer –

We live in a neoliberal age. For ideological reasons bound up in the epic struggle against totalitarianisms both left and right, a bold experiment in hyper-liberalism took root in the wake of the Cold War. Allowing the democratic achievements and aspirations of liberal and social democracy to atrophy, intellectuals and policymakers began an audacious celebration of the unmitigated benefits of economic liberty and private power. A new politics and policy consensus emphasized market expansion and economic growth over social welfare and public well-being, personal rights over collective responsibilities, private interests over public goods, and individual aggrandizement over social equality. So much have neoliberal assumptions captured policymaking and public imagination across the political spectrum, that it has become difficult to think beyond its tightly patrolled borders towards a programmatic, philosophically-grounded alternative. Indeed, for many, neoliberalism has grown synonymous with a sacrosanct – natural, neutral, and necessary – 21st century capitalism.

The consequences of this neoliberal turn are now everywhere around us. And substantive assessments of deregulation, privatization, and the return of market and constitutional fundamentalism are quickly moving from mixed to dire. Long gone are bumptious celebrations of the end of history. In retrospect, the end of the Cold War looms larger as a historic missed opportunity. Today, intellectual critics are documenting the rampant socio-economic debris left in the wake of neoliberal consensus: climate change; poverty and economic inequality; corporate concentration; big tech surveillance; election manipulation and voter repression; fake news; the aggrandizement of executive and war powers; the revival of virulent forms of racism, group hate, and xenophobia; the return of populist and authoritarian nationalism; mass incarceration; an opioid epidemic; and the rise of new global oligarchy and kleptocracy.

The egregious failures and transparent limitations of neoliberalism have now generated a host of provocative assessments and blueprints for moving on, beyond, and forward. Talented social theorists like David Harvey, Axel Honneth, and Wendy Brown have skewered the pretensions and exposed the contradictions of neoliberal political economy and mapped some attractive alternatives. At LPE, the manifesto by David Grewal, Amy Kapczynski, and Jed Purdy moves these concerns from the abstract realm of social theory to legal action. And on the ground, grassroots protests and social movements like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Indignados, and the Umbrella Movement urgently and divergently capture widespread popular aspiration for a post-neoliberal future. Even mainstream political candidates battle furiously to present themselves as the most radical antidote to the neoliberal status quo.

Yet to date, the alternatives to neoliberalism struggle for recognition amid a cacophony of options, including centrist calls to return to Cold War liberalism, technocratic revivals of Third Way social democracy, and defanged, post-totalitarian versions of “socialism light.” Advocates for change seem not yet to have a name or concept or program for what they are striving for after the end of neoliberalism.

We propose a deceptively simple solution — a mere starting point in a longer and larger conversation about a future beyond neoliberalism. We start simply enough by introducing or coining a new word – or at least a new usage.

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Disrupting Doctrine at Penn Law

This post continues our series featuring efforts to organize LPE student groups at several law schools. You can read the rest of the posts here.

Domenic Powell —

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 2.34.10 PMWhy do people who believe in a more just, egalitarian society go to law school? Some of us hope to learn how the law can be used to disrupt the status quo. At the very least, we hope to get the training that will let us “uphold the law” which, in theory, protects the marginalized.

Unfortunately, for students like us, those first weeks in law school can be deeply alienating and disappointing. We learn to “think like a lawyer” in a classroom shaped by decades—if not centuries—of doctrine favoring the rich and powerful. Very quickly, students are introduced to Law and Economics, which is presented not as a jurisprudential fashion or ideology, but as the inevitable, rational, scientific answer to what law must be in a modern society. In classrooms where “efficiency” is elevated over fairness, how could students committed to a democratic society not feel out of place? Students who believed that law might be a tool for achieving social change quickly learn that the law itself stands in the way of a more just future.

Instead of becoming disillusioned with the law, several students at Penn Law chose to join a movement to question the dogmas presented to us. We started Law Students for a Democratic Societywhat we’ve named our campus LPE groupto cultivate humanistic, politically conscious, radical lawyering at Penn Law.

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