IGLP: The Pro-Seminars


The IGLP periodically convenes Pro-Seminars designed for small groups of scholars engaged in collaboration aimed towards publication. IGLP Pro-Seminars typically meet in June and bring together between ten and fifteen active scholars, by invitation and application, working on a common topic. Pro-Seminars typically meet for 3-4 days at Harvard to brainstorm their evolving scholarly writing and advance their work towards publication.

Recent Pro-Seminars

Re-Theorizing Liquidity

Convener: Chris Desan

In its third year, the Pro-Seminar on Re-theorizing Liquidity focused on “Critical Approaches to Monetary Design.” Both neoclassical economics and modern portfolio theory curtail attention to the design of money and credit. But the financial crisis of 2008 was, in many ways, a monetary event. It is only the most recent indication that the design of money matters enormously; we could point as well to the relationship between asset bubbles and credit, the fragility of systems built on short-term liabilities, the distributive impact of government rescues, the centrality of circulating public bonds as private collateral, the paralysis of policy given the current repertoire of “monetary” and “fiscal” tools, the challenge that central banks as opaque authorities pose for systems with democratic aspirations, and the continuing dearth of critical imagination concerning economic institutional design.
The Pro-Seminar brought together scholars and students from law, economics, and history who approach the monetary system with critical perspective. The aim was to develop both analytic capacity to understand the current order and constructive thought about its revision.

The Pro-Seminar:

  • Explored the differences and commonalities between the different traditions that are driven by a fiscal understanding of money, and its modern and historical relationship to the banking system;
  • Considered how the insights of modern monetary theory, of stock-flow consistent modeling, of Minsky’s instability principles, and of careful institutional analysis might illuminate issues of economic institutional design;
  • Discussed the blind spots created by the dominant paradigms in contemporary economics and finance;
  • Assessed the possibility that inter-disciplinary approaches, including the unique competency of lawyers in institutional design, might open up curricular space for a re-invigorated approach to fundamental issues of money and economic structure.

The Pro-Seminar was based on an exchange of readings solicited in advance from participants. Sessions were focused by topic and included short presentations or commentary meant to open discussion on the subject matter. The aim was to identify both common territory and divergences among the approaches (theoretical, methodological, etc.) taken by participants.

Contemporary Legal Thought (1970-Present)

Conveners: Duncan Kennedy, Kerry Rittich, and Justin Desautels-Stein

This pro-seminar addresses the broad topic of “Contemporary Legal Thought,” and invites participants to contribute to the elaboration, evaluation, and critique of the idea.  Is there such a thing as a contemporary moment in our legal consciousness?  If so, how do we know it?  And if we can know it, do we like who we are?  Does Contemporary Legal Thought represent a triumphant march through history?  Is it merely a momentary reflection of personal preferences and political projects?  Is it more or less than this?  In bringing together a body of expert work on the topic, among the themes to be addressed shall be:

  • The “relative autonomy question.”  In accordance with critical orthodoxy, there is a tendency to describe legal institutions and ideas as having a dynamic, dialectical or constitutive relationship to economic activity.   Yet despite this description (suggesting mutability and variability) the institutions and ideas of law are often seen as playing a relatively constant formative role in shaping economic relations.   Assuming this is right (is it?) one wonders whether a key aspect of contemporary law might not be the thoroughgoing infusion and colonization of legal ideas and institutions through the medium of economics, economism, commodification, etc.
  • The neoformalist reaction.”   Within contemporary legal thought, one of the more interesting/puzzling questions concerns the neo-formalist side of contemporary legal thought (highly evidenced for instance, in U.S. in constitutional law and human rights law).    The neoformalist tendency clearly has to be recognized.  What are its roles and provenances?   And how does it succeed within the academy given its transparently dogmatic and brutish character—or is that its appeal?  (“Transparent” here being the key distinguishing term).   And how odd it is—given its unavoidably interstitial and randomizing effect while nonetheless claiming to be foundational.  Finally, if there has been a neoformalist reaction to the evolutionary functionalism of the mid-20th century, is there any evidence of a “neo-functionalist” reaction to neoformalism?
  • The Postmodern Betrayal.  Some critics of postmodernism (this would correspond to the residual presence of partisans of the social) often claim that the postmodern tendency by emphasizing this—call it decenteredness—effectively reproduces and intensifies political paralysis and results in “demobilization.”   The postmoderns meanwhile respond with the usual incredulity: “Right, I see and you are mobilized, are you?”   Are we building towards a new aesthetics of politics or simply witnessing its demise?   (Back to Adorno—the administered world?)
  • An Integrating Concept?   Is there something especially distinctive about contemporary law, or what it might mean to “think like a lawyer?”  If there is an integrating concept, is it emancipatory?  How can we know?
The Role of Law in Structures of Global Production

Conveners: Grietje Baars (City Law School, City University London) Dennis Davis (High Court of Cape Town), Dan Danielsen (Northeastern University School of Law) Jason Jackson (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania) and Brishen Rogers (Temple University Beasley School of Law).

This pro-seminar explores the role of law in the construction, operation and governance of global value chains and production networks: structures that have been theorized by sociologists and political economists to map the disaggregated modes of production that comprise much of modern global capitalism. We will examine how diverse local, national, regional, international and transnational legal regimes, together with cultural norms and business practices, shape the expectations, background entitlements, institutional forms and bargaining positions of various players in global production networks. We will consider how those legal entitlements and normative expectations interact with material factors of production to produce particular forms of commercial relations as well as particular attributions of power and value creation. Finally, we will explore how those legal rules and norms come to shape value chain governance, including the allocation of economic surplus and power, as well as the perceived limits of possible regulatory interventions to distribute rents more equitably or to reduce adverse externalities that result from a networked organization of production.

While scholars have primarily devoted attention to the role of traditional economic factors, such as commodity prices, labor costs, transaction costs and productive efficiency, in the formation and institutional structure of production networks, our intuition is that many legal regimes—tort, tax, trade, traditional and intellectual property, labor, corporate, banking and many others—may be equally important in the proliferation and structure of those networks. In fact, in many cases, it seems to us that the question of whether a production factor results in “cost,” “risk” or “value creation” is largely a function of legal rules and entitlements. As a consequence, the particular structure of a production network may be as much the result of attempts by parties to arbitrage or shape the applicable rules and entitlements to achieve beneficial results as to mitigate what may traditionally be treated as wholly economic factors. Our hope is that by producing a range of scholarly narratives that explicate the legal regimes and norms shaping the structures of production in both micro contexts, such as particular local market structures, as well as across broad, complex and diversely organized global production systems, we will begin to suggest new ways of understanding the diverse roles law plays in the organization and operation of these structures. This will also allow us to explicate the range of means and methods of using law to shift the distribution of rents, benefits and burdens within these structures to achieve more just, equitable, safe and sustainable modes of production.

This pro-seminar will be open to invited participants as well as selected applicants. At this first meeting, we will combine discussions of canonical texts in the fields of global value chains and production networks alongside works of critical theory and critical legal scholarship with discussions of “works-in-progress” by legal scholars that address the questions raised in the pro-seminar. We will also discuss plans for future meetings and seek to obtain commitments for the production of new scholarship to meet the publication requirements for our pro-seminar.

Transnational Social Policy and Labor Regulation: Crisis and Change

Convener: Kerry Rittich

Labor market governance in an integrating economy has become a transnational, multilevel, and asymmetric affair involving a wide range of public and private actors. The effective ‘law of work’ now includes a wide range of rules and practices that range from private law and domestic/national regulation to formal international law and traverses fields as diverse as employment standards, social policy, and trade and financial regulation.

In the last 15 or 20 years, debates and regulatory interventions concerning labor markets have been dominated one the one hand by norms of labor market flexibility and ‘deregulation’ and on the other by expanded attention to worker’s basic rights, corporate codes, and other soft regulatory instruments. Yet as the still unfolding economic crisis reveals more and more linkages between labor markets, precarious work and both distributive justice and financial stability, it is clear that both as templates for thinking and as strategies of intervention, these approaches are inadequate. Both to analyze the workings of markets and the production of new forms of work and to respond to the predicaments of workers and firms, the field is ripe for reinvention and new angles of vision.
Working in comparative perspective, using a range of critical and analytic methods, and expanding the fields of inquiry, this pro-seminar will function as a forum in which to explore, integrate, and differentiate among the substantive and methodological questions and conundrums about labor market governance and social policy, both national and transnational. Pro-Seminar 1 continues its discussions but is not currently accepting new participants.

Gender, Social Movements, Peace and Conflict

Conveners: Karen Engle and Karen Knop

This pro-seminar examines gender and social movements in international and transnational contexts, dating from the women’s suffrage and peace movements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through contemporary feminist interventions in international criminal law and post-conflict resolution. Through a variety of disciplinary lenses–including law, history, politics, literature and anthropology– we explore critically the priorities, strategies, techniques and shifts in these movements. We hope to visit issues regarding the historical and contemporary uses and resonance of such categories as “women,” “men,” “femininity,” “masculinity,” “children,” and “gender,” particularly as they relate to war, peace and empire. Pro-Seminar 2 completed their work in the summer of 2011.

The Center and Periphery in Global Law and Political Economy: Colonialism to Development

Conveners: Matt Craven, Tony Anghie, Vasuki Nesiah, Arnulf Becker, and Sundhya Pahuja

This pro-seminar aims to develop new research and writing about the history, meaning and significance of unequal encounters in global society, particularly as they have influenced the arrangements of the global legal order. How should we (and have we) thought about center-periphery relations in the global legal and political system as international lawyers? How should we understand the history and future of “third world approaches to international law?” How can we deepen our understanding of the history of colonialism for global legal (as well as political and economic) order? Pro-Seminar 3 is continuing discussions though 2011 including co-organizing the TWAIL Conference, “CAPITALISM AND THE COMMON GOOD” at the University of Oregon Law School, October 20-22, 2011. They will convene a series of meetings at the 2012 Workshop to begin work on producing a reader of essays focused on the Center and Periphery and International Law. They concluded their work in 2013.

Gender in Post-Colonial Legal Orders

Convener: Janet Halley

Ideas about and gender, sex, sexuality, reproduction and the family have played pivotal roles in the rise of colonialism and of modern capitalism, in the formation and dissemination of classical legal thought, in the onset of “the social,” in decolonization and the formation of nations, and in the continual reconfiguration of liberalism’s global reach through “market oriented” economic policies and human rights advocacy. Formal and informal, conscious and unconscious, public and private policies in these domains have had massive material impacts on the course of social and economic development. While there are many valuable studies of specific questions, neither the influence of ideas about gendered existence nor the impact of gender policies on all aspects of life have been central thus far to the work of scholars interested in global governance. This Pro-seminar was designed to take some tentative first steps toward remedying this situation through the study of canonical texts from legal, psychological, political, social and cultural studies that might form the basis both for particular writing projects and for more general studies in the area.

In 2011 the group foncused on irrational (though perhaps systematic nevertheless) elements of social, economic, political, and intellectual life as they emerge within postcolonial legal orders. the group asked after the role of eros, affect, gender, psyche, and aesthetics. They studied not (only) economies of trade, war, colonization and development, but economies of desire within and alongside them. The goal was to open a new research project within the IGLP Workshop, in the hopes of queering what we think we know. Pro-Seminar 4 completed their work in the summer of 2011.

Renewing Latin American Legal Studies

Convener: Jorge Esquirol

Comparative law has undergone a series of methodological changes over the last decades which have changed our understanding of the politics, sociology and significance of “area studies” in law. At the same time, law and the legal profession in Latin America have themselves been changed. This pro-seminar brought together scholars thinking in new ways about law in Latin America to develop their own comparative scholarship and sharpen their intervention in the field of Latin American legal studies. Pro-Seminar 6 completed their work in the summer of 2011. The group published a volume of essays on Renewing Latin American Legal Studies in 2012.

Global Poverty and Heterodox Development Pathways: Mapping, Method and Critique

Conveners: Lucie White and Jeremy Perelman

This Pro-Seminar brought together prominent critical law and development scholars to present, map and critique the alternative development pathways that are emerging in the confused phase of the post-Washington Consensus. The invited scholars presented short papers that teasd out the methodological features of their respective approaches, as well as the distributional effects of the developmental pathways that they identify. Students participating in the pro-seminar will respond to the scholars’ presentations, relating it to their own projects. The pro-seminar participants will meet subsequent to the IGLP workshop to continue their work, which may result in a book or a law review symposium.

Economies of Desire

Conveners: Janet Halley and Duncan Kennedy

This Pro-Seminar continues the work of the 2011 Pro-Seminar Global Governance, Queered (aka the Pro-Seminar on Gender in Post-Colonial Legal Orders). It will provide the opportunity for engaging with canonical critical scholarship on desire, sex, gender, affect, intimacy, sexuality, and family. We currently anticipate three concentrations: Economies of Desire; Colonial/Postcolonial Dynamics; and The Irrationalist Theme in Critical Legal Thought. Each session will involve discussion of classics in the critical legal tradition and of works in progress by members of the Pro-Seminar. The Pro-Seminar will support members’ proposals for panels on our concentrations at the IGLP June 3-4 Conference and will hopefully eventually lead to a publication modeled on Kennedy and Fisher, A Canon of American Legal Thought.