Law and Political Economy blog

by Henry Farrell on November 13, 2017

A new blog and a new intellectual movement, launched by David Singh Grewal, Amy Kapczynski and Jed Purdy:

This is a time of crises. Inequality is accelerating, with gains concentrated at the top of the income and wealth distributions. This trend – interacting with deep racialized and gendered injustice – has had profound implications for our politics, and for the sense of agency, opportunity, and security of all but the narrowest sliver of the global elite…. Law is central to how these crises were created, and will be central to any reckoning with them. Law conditions race and wealth, social reproduction and environmental destruction. Law also conditions the political order through which we must respond. … We propose a new departure – a new orientation to legal scholarship that helps illuminate how law and legal scholarship facilitated these shifts, and formulates insights and proposals to help combat them. A new approach of this sort is, we believe, in fact emerging: a coalescing movement of “law and political economy.”

The approach we call law and political economy is rooted in a commitment to a more egalitarian and democratic society. Scholars working in this vein are seeking to reconnect political conversations about the economic order with questions of dignity, belonging, or “recognition” and to challenge versions of “freedom” or “rights” that ignore or downplay social and economic power. …We pursue these egalitarian and democratic commitments through a set of theoretical premises. Politics and the economy cannot be separated. Politics both creates and shapes the economy. In turn, politics is profoundly shaped by economic relations and economic power. Attempts to separate the economy from politics make justice harder to pursue in both domains…. Our project is hopeful in spirit. Rigorous criticism is the precondition of viable hope. To think realistically about the ways that another world is possible, we have to understand the ways that our own has been made, with all of its hierarchies and harms, and to see how the same tools that made it might remake it differently. The point is to understand the world in order to change it, which begins by making it less resistant to both change and understanding.

Paris Photo

by Chris Bertram on November 13, 2017

We spent a few fun hours at the Paris Photo exhibition at the Grand Palais on Saturday. The first time I’d been. Lots to see and lots to like, but also quite a lot to dislike. My attention was caught by a copy of Kertesz’s Chez Mondrian, which is one of my favourite photos of all time (#2 after Cartier-Bresson’s Madrid) on the stall of Bruce Silverstein, the New York dealers. I sauntered up to the assistant and asked how much it was going for, knowing already that it would be beyond my budget: “1.2 million” she said. I’m not clear whether that was dollars or euros, but it doesn’t matter much. It was a print made for an exhibition in 1927, and as such, unique, though it looks like most other renderings of Chez Mondrian.

There is something, to my mind rather off about the enormous sums being paid for photographs. After all, with the exception of daguerreotypes and similar they are actually produced for reproduction and largely only exist in the form of copies of themselves (the negative being rarely for sale). Some of what was on sale for large amounts were shots of really poor and suffering people taken by photographers acting from moral or political motives: all grist to the mill of the gallerists.

Having looked around several stalls containing vintage photography, I asked one assistant why I had not seen a single autochrome. Apparently they have very little commercial value because of doubts about the long-term stability of the originals. I still think it anomalous there aren’t any, I said, pointing out that we were in Paris, where the Albert Kahn Museum (perpetually fermé pour travaux) has perhaps the world’s largest collection. Alas, she had never heard of Albert Kahn.

(For myself, I bought and was bought, some books by Harry Gruyaert, a Belgian colourist at Magnum whom I really rate very highly.)