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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LPE Society at Berkeley 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.

Sarang Shah — 

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 2.34.10 PMBerkeley holds a unique place in the public imagination as the home of the Free Speech Movement and the People’s Park protests, as Earl Warren’s alma mater, and as a reliable beacon of Left Coast progressivism. Berkeley also stands uniquely situated in the Bay Area, where climate change-induced fires, rampant inequality and homelessness, and an unaccountable tech industry have emerged as harbingers of a future headed toward catastrophe.

While Berkeley Law students are proximate to these crises, they are also privileged to have access to tools that can be used to build an alternative, better future. Unfortunately, there is an overwhelming pressure built into the law school experience itself that pushes students into a narrow range of career choices. Few of these careers encourage addressing broader structural concerns with the law. Instead, Berkeley Law graduates often wind up viewing law as unalterable and decaying plumbing, rather than as architecture that may be torn down, transformed, and rebuilt for a more just future.

I attended law school so that I might learn about how law generates inequality. I wanted to know how law got us to where we are today, where we may end up if we don’t change anything, and how we could use the law as a creative tool to get us to where we would rather go. Arriving to campus and finding these opportunities lacking, I sought to build a community around discussing how we can transform the law to encourage greater dignity and equality. Having been an avid follower of LPE Blog since its inception, I reached out to the blog organizers for help with bringing LPE to Berkeley. Since then, several of my colleagues and I have sought to make LPE a lasting and vibrant academic community at my law school with the indispensable help of our steering committee.

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Friday Roundup

Here are some things we’re reading:

  • Last week on the blog, we continued our series on labor and the Constitution.
  • This week, we featured highlights from LPE student organizing.
  • These days in Rawls: a review in the New Republic of Katrina Forrester’s book In the Shadow of Justice by Jedediah Purdy, and a review in Commonweal on theology and liberalism by Samuel Moyn.
  • In a review for the Nation, Kate Aronoff skewers the liberal tendency to obfuscate central planning and corporate power in favor of moralizing and self-flagellation.

-LPE Blog