ClassCrits Workshop II: Constructing the Story of Class In Law

May 21-22, 2007

University at Buffalo Law School,

The State University of New York

Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy

Organized by

Athena Mutua and Martha McCluskey

State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law

Contact info: mcclusk@buffalo.edu (716) 645 2326

admutua@buffalo.edu (716) 645-2873

This continues the goal of the first workshop, in January 2007, which was to begin to build a network of scholars interested in conceptualizing and interrogating the relationship between law, class and economic inequality. While much serious work has been undertaken in other disciplines on issues of class and economic inequality, the issue of law’s relationship to this work and these issues in the modern moment are underdeveloped. This second workshop is geared toward taking some further steps toward developing a body of legal texts and interdisciplinary scholarship exploring law and class.

WHAT IS CLASSCRITS?

Economic inequality has become a growing problem locally, nationally and internationally. In light of this central social and political reality, it is time to foreground economics in progressive jurisprudence and to reconsider longstanding assumptions and approaches in legal scholarship and practice. We aim to provide an alternative to the predominant discussions of “law and economics” grounded in neoclassical economic theory and its denial of “class.” Many legal scholars are now interested in challenging or broadening some of the assumptions of neoclassical economics. Nonetheless, the question of class and the role of institutionalized inequality still lurks beneath the surface of most discussions of economics in legal academia.

The name “ClassCrits” reflects our interest in focusing on economics through the lens of critical legal scholarship movements, such as critical legal studies, critical feminist theory, critical race theory, LatCrit, and queer theory. That is, we start with the assumption that economics in law is inextricably political and fundamentally tied to questions of systemic status-based subordination.

Here are a few of the questions we want to explore through a critical analysis of economic inequality. How might a focus on class contribute to the debates within critical theory and practice, such as how to address legal and societal subordination? What insights from earlier work in critical legal studies and legal realism might be revived, updated, and improved to better address contemporary concerns and debates? What is the relationship between subordinated identity based on economic class and institutionalized structures of economic subordination? How might the perspectives and insights of critical feminism and critical race theory help develop previous work on economic class in law?

 

CONSTRUCTING THE STORY OF CLASS IN LAW – May Workshop

This workshop will focus on building a body of comments on cases, statutues, and interdisciplinary readings that we hope will begin discussion of a “canon” or story about the place of economic class and economic inequality in U.S. law.

Participants will submit a short, informal written comment or annotation on a case, statute, legal institution or organization, or a reading that they believe is important and useful to the project of developing a critical analysis of law and economic class. The comment should discuss the particular case, statute, legal institution, organization, or reading in light of the following questions (feel free to add to this list):

(1) what this legal source or reading shows about the concept, nature, theory, politics and operation of class or economic inequality in U.S. law;

(2) its significance for understanding and analyzing the legal construction of economic inequality or economic class

(3) the relationship of class to other intersecting categories or factors (such as gender and race)

Written comments or annotations are due May 17, 2007. These will be circulated to participants prior to the workshop and will be the basis for discussion during several sessions of the workshop.

We plan to develop at least some of these comments and annotations into a publication. The Buffalo Law Review has expressed interest in discussing the possibility of compiling these into a special section of an issue

 

Program

Date: May 21-22

Monday May 21

12:00 – 12:30 Lunch and introductions

12:30 -2:30 Conceptualizing Class: concepts and intersections

Working lunch during which we will consider the following works, among others in our efforts to conceptualize class.

Background Reading:

Approaches to Class Analysis (Erik Olin Wright ed. 2005)

This book summarizes various approaches to class analysis including analysis drawn from or by Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Bourdieu, Sorensen and Pakulski

Jordan and Harris, Economic Justice: Race, Gender, Identity and Economics, (2006) [Chapter 5 and part of Chapter 6 (pp. 324-443)].

This text provides a range of critiques to classic market analysis of inequality including some of the ideas considered below.

 

Readings for Session: A Little of the Old and Little of the New

 

1. David Harvey, Spaces of Hope (2000) (Into and Part 1)

 

2. Marx and Engel’s, Manifesto of the Communist Party (including the preface to the English edition 1888)

 

3. Erik Olin Wright, Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis (1997) (or student edition 2000) (Chapter 1: Class Analysis)

 

4. Marx and Engel’s, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

 

5. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) (Chapter 1)

 

The focus here on Marxist’s conceptions of class is not meant to suggest that one type of class analysis is appropriate for our work or to have the group adopt a single strand of class analysis. Rather it is being used to highlight three important notions, at least one of which stands in contradistinction to traditional Marxist analysis. These three ideas include 1) understanding class as a relational concept – defining inequality in terms of people’s relationship to economic processes and income generating resources -as opposed to gradational or status-based notions; 2) exploring the contingency of (conscious) class formation, despite the ‘objective’ existence of class, given among other things, ideology and hegemony, and the relationship of class formation to change; and 3) probing the commitment to egalitarian distributions of resources. The relational idea, according to Wright, is also consistent with nuanced understandings of Weber, Bourdieu and others’ views of class. The first classcrit workshop began to discuss the relational concept of class in reference to the arguments made by Martha Mahoney (cited below) who we understand to suggest that status-based notions of class in the US facilitate and normalized attachments to whiteness by working class and other whites. This may hinder class formation as a basis, among organized others, for struggling to change and promote more egalitarian ways of distributing resources.

2:30-2:45 Break

2:45-4:00 Conceptualizing Class: Intersections

 

6. Iris Young, Socialist Feminism and the Limits of Dual System Theory, Socialist Review, No. 50/51, Summer 1980, pp. 169-188.

 

7. Bob Wing, Harry Chang : A Seminal Theorist of Racial Justice, 58

(8) Monthly Review, 23-31 (Jan2007); and Toward a Marxist Theory of Racism: Two Essays by Harry Chang (Paul Liem and Eric Montague eds.) 17(3) Review of Radical Political Economics, 34-35 (1985)

 

8. Martha Mahoney, Class and Status in American Law: Race, Interest,

and the Anti-Transformation Cases, 76 SO. Cal. L. Rev. 799 (2002)

 

9. Athena Mutua, The Rise, Development and Future Directions of

Critical Race Theory and Related Scholarship, 84 Den. U. Rev. 329

(2006)

 

4:00-4:15 break

 

4:15- 5:45 Constructing a Story about the Way Class is Structured Through Law:

Annotated Cases and Statutes

We will have each participant with an annotated case or statute briefly present their work, and then the group will provide feedback and discussion of several questions, such as: 1) How does this text help create a story about class in law? 2) What broader patterns emerge from this example? 3) How does it help our analysis of the basic concepts of class and inequality? 4) What does it show about the relationship and intersection of class and gender, race, nationality, disability, or other factors? (Please think broadly. Cases should not only be drawn from labor, welfare, poverty and discrimination law, but also from constitutional, corporate, criminal, disability, health, property, tort, tax law, etc.)

The goal will be a) to help individual participants to develop their annotation into a form that could be made available in preliminary form on line, in more developed form as a publishable essay, or in alternative media and b) to help piece together the beginnings of stories about law and class as a longer published article or articles.

 

6:45 Working Dinner: Annotations Continued

Tuesday: May 22

9:00 – 11:00 Analyzing Class and Law: Annotated Bibliography

Similar to the session on annotated legal sources, participants will present their comments on annotated readings for discussion. The group will provide feedback and discussion of several questions, such as: 1) How does this text help create a story about class in law? 2) How does it develop or depart from other important readings? 3) How does it help our analysis of the basic concepts of class and inequality? 4) What does it show about the relationship and intersection of class and gender, race, nationality, disability, or other factors? 5) How does its analysis of class and law contribute to or fall short of a critical analysis?

As with the previous session on annotated cases and statutes, the goal will be a) to help individual participants to develop their annotation into a form that could be made available in preliminary form on line, in more developed form as a publishable essay, or in alternative media and b) to help piece together the beginnings of stories about law and class as a longer published article or articles.

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2 Responses to ClassCrits Workshop II: Constructing the Story of Class In Law

  1. Janis L. McDonald says:

    I would love to be involved with this but I’ve already signed up for a Maymester course with Minnie Bruce Pratt at Syracuse for those dates. Please keep me on your mailing list! Good luck. Janis McDonald, Associate Professor of Law, Syracuse University College of Law

  2. Pingback: Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » ClassCrits: Constructing the Story of Class in Law, May 21-22, 2007,

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