Neoliberal Legal Theory

Semester: 
Spring
Year: 
2013
Subject Name: 

Law, Jurisp & Social Thought

Course Number: 
354
Institution: 
Amherst College

(Research Seminar) The theory of governance known today as "neoliberalism" is most often understood as a mainly economic policy.  Both its opponents and its proponents seem to agree that neoliberalism is best debated as an ensemble of practices (such as free trade, privatization, deregulation, competitiveness, social-spending cutbacks and deficit reduction) that emphasize the primacy of the free market in and for the arrangement of social and political orders.  But, particularly in its initial theorizations, neoliberalism was also, perhaps even primarily, a philosophic doctrine concerning the place and function of law in and for human civilization in general.  At the 1938 Walter Lippman Colloquium in Paris and then again at the inaugural 1947 meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Switzerland, the leading figures of what would later become known as neoliberalism criticized existing economic theories for neglecting basic questions of legal theory and argued that capitalism could not be saved from the perils of socialism and communism without a renewed understanding of, and insistence on, the rule of law.  In this course, we shall take this, the "legal theoretical" origin of neoliberalism, as a point of departure for understanding neoliberalism as a whole.  In the first half of the course, we shall seek to understand neoliberalism on the basis of the way it posed law as a problem for thought.  In relation to what alternate theories of law did neoliberalism emerge?  On what terms did neoliberals reinterpret the "classical" liberalism of Hobbes and Locke?  How did certain concepts of law figure into the way that neoliberal thinkers arrived at their understandings of the basic meanings of life and labor?  In the second half of the course, we shall explore the ways in which various critics of neoliberalism have sought to expose and to question the legal theories at its origin.  How might renewed attention to legal theoretical problems help us today in our attempt to think and act beyond neoliberalism's constitutive limits?  Our goal in all phases of the course will be to reconstruct neoliberal thought on its own terms in order to grasp better its contemporary incoherence, crisis, and dissolution.   Readings will include Samir Amin, Zygmunt Bauman, Michel Foucault, Milton Friedman, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, David Harvey, Friedrich Hayek, Maynard Keynes, Naomi Klein, Karl Marx, Ludwig von Mises, Alexander Rustow, and Saskia Sassen.

Requisite:  LJST 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester; Professor Sitze.

 

Linked Course: 
N
Instructor Permission Required: 
N
Schedule #: 
LJST-354-01-1213S

Course Sections

Neoliberal Legal Theory
Sect # Credits Instructor(s) Instructor Email Meeting Times Location
01 4.0

Adam Sitze

asitze@amherst.edu

W 02:00PM-04:00PM

OCTA 200