In 2013 we convened 2 new Pro-Seminars.  In addition, we hosted follow-up sessions for the IGLP Pro-Seminars on Retheorizing Liquidity, Contemporary Legal Thought (1970-Present) and Global Poverty and Heterodox Development Pathways: Mapping, Method and Critique.

•PRO-SEMINAR 5: Re-Theorizing Liquidity
•PRO-SEMINAR 7: Global Poverty and Heterodox Development Pathways: Mapping, Method and Critique
•PRO-SEMINAR 8: Contemporary Legal Thought (1970-Present)
•PRO-SEMINAR 9: Law, Economic (in)equality, and Global Social Movements Not Held in 2013
•PRO-SEMINAR 10: Economies of Desire

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.

PRO-SEMINAR 7: 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.

PRO-SEMINAR 8: 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?

PRO-SEMINAR 9: Law, Economic (in)equality, and Global Social Movements
Conveners: Chantal Thomas and Brishen Rogers.

This Pro-Seminar did not accept applications for 2013.    

In recent decades, global economic inequality has become a central concern for political theorists, legal activists, and legal scholars. Yet over that same period global inequality has increased dramatically. This proseminar will explore the relationship between law, emergent social movements that oppose neoliberal economic and social policies, and global justice. Examples of such movements might include — but by no means be limited to — mobilizations against the international financial institutions and more recent global mobilizations surrounding the “Occupy Wall St.” movement; movements to obtain equal access to prescription drugs; and various new labor movements emerging outside of “official” unions in both developed and developing nations.

Questions to be explored include: What would a critical legal theory of global justice and equality look like? Within such a theory, how much importance would we attach to resource and opportunity distribution, grassroots democratic mobilization, and anti-subordination norms? What is the role of law — national and international, hard and soft, formal and informal, substantive and procedural — in promoting or hindering the development of democratic egalitarian social movements? What — if anything — is distinctive about modern global social movements, and do they force reconsideration of traditional understandings of the relationship between law, class, nationalism, race, gender, and equality? What do those movements tell us about the strengths and failings of predominant liberal theories of global justice? How might 20th century strategies and concepts such as civil rights, the welfare state and the regulatory state limit or continue to advance visions of equality in the contemporary context?

PRO-SEMINAR 10: 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.