Law and Political Economy Seminar

Professor Amy Kapczynski
Yale Law School
Spring 2017



This seminar will examine the relationship between the economy and political life, with particular attention to the role of law in mediating the relationship between the two. The class will begin with key theoretical readings that articulate the embeddedness of the economy in politics (e.g., Polanyi), and that critique the conception of efficiency as a politically neutral value (e.g., Anderson, Dworkin). Early readings will also consider how literatures on racial capitalism and social reproduction contribute to our understanding of political economy. The class will then pivot to consider recent legal scholarship across a range of fields that seeks to bring questions of political economy to the center, and thereby to make our legal and social order more just, equal, democratic, and sustainable. Topics include the political economy of the U.S. Constitution, of trade law, of the carceral state, of work and labor law, and of environmental law. At the end of the course, time will be allocated for topics that students identify as important to their own research agendas or to emerging political events.



  1. Theoretical Foundations: Market Societies and the Embedded Economy


  1. Liberalism, Neoliberalism, and the Stakes of Law

Recommended:  If the concept of neoliberalism is unfamiliar, you may want to read Wendy Brown, “Neoliberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy,” in Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics (2005)

  1. Wealth Maximization and Theories of Value
  • Richard Posner, The Economics of Justice 60-73, 87-96 (1983)
  •  Ronald Dworkin, Is Wealth a Value? Change in the Common Law: Legal and Economic Perspectives, 9 J. Legal Stud. 191, 194-209 (1980)
  • Daniel M. Hausman & Michael S. McPherson, Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy 12-23, 64-67, 135-40 (2d ed. 2006)
  • Elizabeth Anderson, Value in Ethics and Economics 5-16 (1995)
  1. Efficiency and Distribution



  1. Social Reproduction

Recommended:  Isabella Bakker, Social Reproduction and the Constitution of a Gendered Political Economy, New Political Economy, 12:4, 541-556



  1. Racial Justice

Recommended: Hall, Stuart. 1980. “Race, Articulation and Societies Structured in Dominance.” In Sociological theories: race and colonialism



  1. Constitutional Political Economy (with K. Sabeel Rahman)
  • Sabeel Rahman, Domination, Democracy, and Constitutional Political Economy in the New Gilded Age, 94 Tex. L. Rev. 1329 (2016).
  • Joseph Fishkin & William Forbath, The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution, 94 B. U. L. Rev. 669 (2014).
  • Joseph Fishkin & William Forbath, Wealth, Commonwealth, & the Constitution of Opportunity, forthcoming in NOMOS (this is a longer version of the previous article; only read pp. 14-25 on the early republic)
  • Kate Andrias, Building Labor’s Constitution, Tex. L. Rev. (2016).

Recommended: Jeremy K. Kessler, The Political Economy of “Constitutional Political Economy,” 94 Texas L. Rev 1527 (2016).

Recommended:  Jed Purdy, The Roberts Court v. America, Democracy, Winter 2012

  1. Trade Law (with David Grewal)
  1. The Political Economy of the Carceral State
  1. Labor Law

Recommended: Peter Frase, Ours to Master, Jacobin Magazine,



  1. Environmental Law 
  • Douglas Kysar, Regulating from Nowhere: Environmental Law and the Search for Objectivity (2010) read Introduction, pp. 1-16 and chapter 3, pp. 71-98
  • Katrina Forrester, The Anthropocene Truism, The Nation, May 12, 2016 (review of Purdy, After Nature)
  • Jed Purdy, After Nature, read the last chapter (Inside Page).
  1. Student Topic:  Anti-Trust



  1. Student Topic: Human Rights
  • Wendy Brown, ‘‘The Most We Can Hope For . . .’’: Human Rights and the Politics of Fatalism, 103 South Atlantic Quarterly 451 (2004)
  • Susan Marks, Four Human Rights Myths, LSE Working Paper Series (2012)
  • Sam Moyn, A Powerless Companion: Human Rights in the Age of Neoliberalism, 77 L. & Contemporary Problems 149 (2014). 151-152, skim 153-155, 155-169
  • Philp AlstonExtreme Inequality as the Antithesis of Human Rights, Open Democracy (Oct. 27, 2015)
  • Amy Kapczynski, The Right to Medicine in the Age of Neoliberalism (Draft)


  • Zachary Manfredi, An Unlikely Resonance? Subjects of Human Rights and Subjects of Human Capital, in The Politics of Legality in a Neoliberal AgeBen Golder, ed. (2017)