ClassCrits IV

Criminalizing Economic Inequality

Sponsored by American University, Washington College of Law
Washington, D.C. * September 23-24, 2011

For more information and to register to attend, visit

This workshop, the fourth meeting of ClassCrits, takes as its theme the criminalization of economic inequality.

The dominance of “free market” economic theory and policy has been accompanied in the U.S. by increasing reliance on the criminal justice system to make and enforce economic policy. The criminal justice system is increasingly used to control persons and groups whose participation in formal markets is marginal at best. Many aspects of traditional immigration law have morphed into “crimmigration”, appropriating domestic criminal law enforcement tools and redefining whole communities of workers and their families as “illegal people.” States and municipalities have criminalized the lives of homeless people, including those who are mentally ill. International markets in heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are the targets of a “war on drugs” fought through criminal justice (and military) methods. Criminal law is used to deter and punish sex trafficking, and the criminal justice system buttresses, or substitutes for, welfare policy. At the same time, corporate wrongdoing has been lightly punished, if at all, and the drumbeat against “government” as the enemy of the people continues unabated. In this sense, economic inequality has not been “criminalized” at all. Quite the opposite, powerful interests encourage American citizens to see economic inequality as natural and good. Criminalizing Economic Inequality will provide an opportunity for legal scholars, economists, policymakers, activists, and others to critically examine the relationship between state power and market power in upward redistribution and the continued spread of laissez-faire ideology.

LOGISTICS: The venue for the gathering is American University, Washington College of Law. The workshop will begin with lunch on Friday Sept. 23 and continue through the afternoon of Sat. Sept. 24. Arrangements are being made for conference hotels. Please visit for further information.

FEES: Attendees are responsible for their own travel and lodging expenses.



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