Reminder: LPE Conference Proposals due Sept 15

Just a reminder that paper and panel proposals for the LPE Project’s Conference, “Law and Political Economy: Democracy After Neoliberalism” (April 3-4, 2020, at Yale Law School) are due one week from today, September 15. You can find the call for papers here

One clarification: Panel proposals should include a description of the panel as a whole and abstracts for each paper. Each of those pieces can be up to a page in length (e.g., a proposal for a 4-person panel could be up to 5 pages).

We really hope you will join us!

August Break

Thanks to all of our wonderful readers for helping LPE Blog grow so much this year!

We’re taking a break for the month of August to bring you more of that LPE content you crave in September. Next year will be a big one for the LPE world, with launch of the Journal of Law and Political Economy and the LPE Project’s inaugural conference.

With gratitude,

Kate and the LPE Blog team.

Inaugural LPE Project Conference – Call for Papers!

Call for Papers: “Law and Political Economy: Democracy After Neoliberalism”

Over the past several years, a growing group of legal scholars have begun to center questions of “law and political economy” as part of a deliberate effort to enable a critical transformation in legal thought. Joined by the insight that the “the economy” cannot be separated from questions of power, distribution, and democracy, these scholars have advanced new conceptions of antitrust, constitutional law, criminal law, labor law, intellectual property, international trade, and other areas that begin to spell out what it means to reunite what decades of legal scholarship and governance have kept apart. In so doing, these scholars have highlighted law’s role in the perpetuation of racial and gender injustice, the devaluation of social and ecological reproduction, and the violence of the carceral state under capitalism. They have also sought to offer alternative visions for law’s role and concrete legal reforms designed to move beyond neoliberalism and toward a genuinely responsive, egalitarian democracy, with critical attention to the need for power and movement-building as part of any such transformation. There is still, however, much work to be done to map the path of this new scholarly initiative. 

The Law and Political Economy (LPE) Project’s inaugural conference, to be held April 3rd & 4th, 2020 at Yale Law School, will be an opportunity for LPE scholars to come together to identify and develop pressing questions for law and political economy as a movement, and for the current political moment.  Many of us already gather in generative sub-field conversations, so rather than reproduce conversations happening elsewhere and convening panels by topic (“labor,” “trade,” “criminal law”), we hope to organize panels to surface critical analytic questions that must be answered if we are to dislodge the status quo in legal thought. This aim is ambitious, so what follows is longer than the usual CFP. Please see this as an invitation to connect our work through productive lines of critique. Challenge or develop the prompts further as you see fit. 

In hopes of fostering a more open dialogue, we welcome proposals for traditional legal scholarship (law review works-in-progress), as well as shorter pieces (of about 4000-5000 words that might be more suitable for online “forum” publication or other non-law review formats) addressing these difficult questions. In addition to proposals for individual papers (which will be placed onto panels), we also welcome proposals for fully formed panels. Drafts of all papers must be made available/circulated to all participants two weeks prior to the conference. Please submit proposals of no more than a page, clearly indicating whether for an article-in-progress or a shorter piece, to Sarah Harwood at sarah.harwood@yale.edu by September 15, 2019. 

The LPE Project will ensure that cost is not a barrier to participation for all selected panelists. There will not be a conference fee. We will cover all participants’ hotel accommodations. We will also cover travel expenses for anyone without sufficient funding from a home institution. 

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The Tensions in Democracy: Interview with Astra Taylor

Astra Taylor is an independent writer, documentarian, activist, organizer, and musician. She recently completed a project on the concept of democracy, which produced both a movie–What is Democracy?–and a book–Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss it When It’s Gone. Both treat democracy as a paradoxical and tension-filled ideal that nevertheless must be fought for. Both have many insights that can help left lawyers as we think through the thorny questions that come with the institutionalization of equality and self-governance. Taylor shares some of them in this interview.

LPE: In a recent post for this blog, Samuel Bagg argues that democracy is best understood in terms of what it’s not, or rather, what it’s against. Do you agree? How do you think about arguing for the value of democracy without having an easily articulated concept of what it is? Is history more valuable than philosophy here?

I see democracy as a kind of moving target, something that we can never define definitively and close the case on. But I do think having a minimal definition helps, and I’m happy to start here: the people (demos) rule or hold power (kratos). The problem is that who the people are and how they rule is always open to debate.

Bagg’s approach reminds me of a scene in What Is Democracy? where I’m talking to the political theorist Wendy Brown and I tell her that I really wrestled with making democracy the theme of the film. And it’s true, initially I was open to the idea of jettisoning the word since it’s been so corrupted. But the more reading and thinking I did, the more my perspective shifted. I began to see democracy’s disorienting vagueness as a source of strength, in that the concept can always be contested and reimagined. Researching the book also just drove home the fact that elites have always hated democracy, even as they have attempted to co-opt and contain it—which means there must be something to it. Elites don’t care for democracy because it implies the leveling of hierarchy, including hierarchies of wealth. (Here, I’m also partial to Aristotle’s definition of democracy as rule of the poor, since the poor always outnumber the rich. In my view, even a very minimal definition has a material or class dimension.)

In any case, during the interview Wendy empathized with my plight. We keep coming back to democracy, she says, because the alternatives—or in Bagg’s terminology, all the things democracy is not—are worse. The alternatives to ruling ourselves are pretty unappealing: we could be a ruled by a tyrant, an aristocracy, an oligarchy, a technocracy, and so on. Which is why, as Wendy says, we keep coming back to the word democracy, to the idea of ruling ourselves.

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Ten Theses on LPE of Foreign Policy

Ganesh Sitaraman – 

In many areas of law and policy, political economy thinking has not yet become mainstream. People often separate politics from economics to a degree that is unrealistic, and they undervalue how economic power can be used for political ends. American foreign policy today, I think, suffers from these problems. Over at the American Prospect, I’ve offered ten theses on the relationship between political economy and foreign policy. They are stylized for effect, and thus leave out some nuance, but my hope is to start a conversation on what the consequences are of placing political economy at the center of foreign policy thinking.

Ganesh Sitaraman is a Chancellor Faculty Fellow, Professor of Law, and Director of the Program in Law and Government at Vanderbilt Law School.

 

Announcing the New Law and Political Economy Project

A collaboration of law faculty across several law schools announces a new initiative, the Law and Political Economy (LPE) Project. The Project will bring together a network of legal scholars, practitioners, and students developing innovative methods to challenge the dominance of market fundamentalism within legal scholarship and practice today. It is currently centered at Yale Law School, and partners with a wide range of other institutions.

The Project seeks to offer an alternative vision for law and legal scholarship that starts from the premise that politics and the economy cannot be separated and that both are undergirded in essential respects by law.

Yale Law School professor and project co-director Amy Kapczynski noted the motivation for the project: “We live in a time of increasing inequality, eroding democratic institutions, and accelerating ecological destruction. Law has fueled these crises and will be central to reckoning with them.”

Conventional legal scholarship fails to address these problems and, by relying too much on free-market models, may even reinforce the perception that they are beyond redress. Columbia Law Professor and project co-director Jedediah Purdy explained, “A new wave of legal scholarship needs to move beyond conventional divisions between ‘public’ and ‘private’ law, and between ‘economic’ and ‘social’ issues. The legal subfield of ‘law and economics’ has tended to focus on questions of wealth maximization and efficiency without regard to distribution, while public law questions concerning constitutional rights and democratic self-rule are too often treated as separate from questions of economic inequality and concentrations of private power.”

Building on the energy of the emerging law and political economy movement, the LPE Project aims to reconnect conversations about the economy to questions of dignity, belonging, and power. The Project aims to transform legal scholarship and pedagogy by centering issues of economic power, racial and gender subordination, and meaningful democratic inclusion. It aims to move beyond postwar models of the liberal welfare state in order to develop new policy solutions, intellectual approaches, and political strategies adequate to the crises of our time.

In pursuit of these goals, the LPE Project will support scholars working across an array of doctrinal areas and disciplines through the development of conferences, working groups, and scholarly networks. The Project will contribute to legal pedagogy by developing seminars, lectures, and course materials that foreground political economy, and integrate issues of racial capitalism and social and ecological reproduction. In addition, the Project will continue to develop the LPE Blog as a space to catalyze scholarship, test ideas, and foster debate.

The Project will also reach beyond the academy to connect scholars with activists, practitioners, and policy specialists. LPE Project Executive Director Corinne Blalock said that this approach “will ensure both that LPE work helps to shape policy-making and that social mobilizations and institutional debates inform LPE work in an ongoing way.”

The Law and Political Economy Project is funded by a grant from the Hewlett Foundation as part of its Beyond Neoliberalism Initiative. It is led by four faculty directors: Yale Law School Professor of Law Amy Kapczynski, Yale Law School Professor of Law David Singh Grewal, Columbia Law School Professor of Law Jedediah Purdy, and President of Demos and Associate Professor at Brooklyn Law School K. Sabeel Rahman.

The LPE Blog, launched in 2017, can be viewed at lpeblog.org.

Inquiries concerning the LPE Project can be directed to:

Corinne Blalock, Executive Director
corinne.blalock@yale.edu

Amy Kapczynski, Faculty Director
amy.kapczynski@yale.edu

David Singh Grewal, Faculty Director
david.grewal@yale.edu

Jedediah Purdy, Faculty Director
jpurdy@law.columbia.edu

Sabeel Rahman, Faculty Director
sabeel.rahman@brooklaw.edu

Imperium, Dominium, Terra

This post is part of our symposium on Quinn Slobodian’s Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of NeoliberalismRead the rest of the symposium here. 

Quinn Slobodian –

9780674979529About a year before Globalists was published, I presented in Mattias Kumm’s colloquium on Global Constitutionalism at the WZB Social Science Center. It seemed like an ordinary talk until the end when the first question came from someone who introduced himself as an international lawyer from Spain. “What are the normative implications of your talk?” he asked. I was stunned. It took me a moment to figure out why.

I’d never been asked that question before.

Historians ask about sources, they ask you to push your story forward or back—or forward and back—or wonder about unheard voices and unseen actors, or dynamics of power, or subtleties of translation and evolving meaning, about temporality and meta-narratives and space and agency and disciplinary placement and categories of analysis, but very rarely—if ever—do they ask about normative implications.

A couple of years and miles from Berlin, I’ve come to expect and even demand the question.  There are, after all, always normative implications to our work. Why not talk about them openly?

The LPE blog has been generous enough to gather pieces from seven legal scholars about my book. Few shy from the question of their Spanish colleague.

All are critics of the settlement I call alternately neoliberal globalism or ordoglobalism that coalesced in its present form in the 1990s around institutions like international investment law, European competition law, and international treaty organizations like the WTO and NAFTA.

The blog authors’ interventions cluster around questions of description and prescription. I will argue that the former supply the grounds for the latter.

What we see tells us what to do. I will conclude by suggesting what we are still missing.

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