Democracy Against Domination – Book manuscript, forthcoming

[Forthcoming, 2016, Oxford University Press]


The modern economy poses a challenge to democratic ideals. Market forces and corporate power undermine the prospects for economic well-being, while seeming to exist beyond the capacities of ordinary citizens. Traditionally American politics has appealed to one of two approaches to governing the economy: a laissez-faire approach that relies on self-correcting markets, and a managerial approach that relies on neutral, insulated expert regulators. By contrast, this book argues for a more democratic approach to economic governance. First, the book identifies the moral challenge of the modern economy in terms of domination, whether in the concentrated private power of corporations or the diffuse system of the market itself. Second, the book argues that such domination must be counteracted by democratic politics, through the use of institutions and practices that empower citizens to mitigate these forms of power. Such democratic economic governance draws on a different tradition of American politics rooted in the thought and reform politics of Progressive Era thinkers like John Dewey and Louis Brandeis. Using the case of financial regulatory reform after the 2008 financial crisis, the book outlines how this focus on domination and democracy suggests a very different approach to economic regulation. The focus on domination implies economic regulations that attempt to limit the concentrated power of corporations like too-big-to-fail financial firms through structural constraints. The focus on democratic agency suggests a regulatory process that rather than prioritizing insulated expertise cultivates a more participatory and inclusive form of collective decision-making.

Chapter outline below the fold.

Continue reading “Democracy Against Domination – Book manuscript, forthcoming”

About me

Assistant Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School.  Fellow at the New America Foundation.  Research focus on participatory governance, public law (constitutional, administrative, electoral, local government), economic policy, international development. (More here)

Current works in progress

  • “Constitutionalism, Progressivism, and Political Economy in the New Gilded Age”.  Draft presented at “Law and Inequality” conference, Yale Law School, October 2015.
  • “Transcending the New Deal Idea of the State: Managerialism, Neoliberalism, and Participatory Democracy.”  Draft presented at “Beyond the New Deal Order” conference ,UC-Santa Barbara, September 2015. 
  • “Private Power, Public Utilities, and the ‘Curse of Bigness’ Revisited.”  Draft presented at American Political Science Association annual convention (September 2015); and American Association of Law Schools annual conference, Business Associations and Law & Economics Section, “Corporate Law and Economics Revolution 40 years Later” (January 2016).
  • “Disrupting Democracy: Accountability and Equality in the On-Demand Economy.”   Draft presented at “Approaches to Capitalism” workshop, Stanford University, November 2015.
  • “Managerialism, Structuralism, and the Competing Logics of Financial Regulation.” Draft in progress.
  • “Citizen Audits.”  Draft in progress.
  • “Regulatory Capture and Democratic Theory.” Draft in progress.
  • Democracy Against Domination: Markets, Experts, and Citizens in Economic Governance. Book manuscript, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

Brief abstracts below the fold.

Continue reading “Current works in progress”

Democracy against domination: Contesting economic power in progressive and neorepublican political theory

Contemporary Political Theory (April 2016)

Available online here.

This article argues that current economic upheaval should be understood as a problem of domination, in two respects: the ‘dyadic’ domination of one actor by another (such as in the case of corporations over workers), and the ‘structural’ domination of individuals by a diffuse, decentralized, but nevertheless human-made system (such as the ‘market’ itself). Such domination should be contested through specifically democratic political mobilization, through institutions and practices that expand the political agency of citizens themselves. The article advances this argument by synthesizing two traditions of political thought. It reconstructs radical democratic theory from the Progressive Era (1880–1920). These thinkers in turn help to reinforce contemporary debates in neorepu- blican thought, resolving disputes over the scope of domination and the relationship between domination and democracy. This synthesis offers a novel normative framework for diagnosing and responding to the current combination of economic upheaval and political dysfunction.

NOTE:  This paper outlines the normative and intellectual historical background for my other work on constitutional political economy.  Many of these arguments are also developed more deeply in my forthcoming book.

Domination, democracy, and constitutional political economy

Reflections on Progressive Era political thought, new debates over constitutional political economy and economic inequality, and the Texas Law Review symposium on Fishkin and Forbath’s forthcoming Constitution of Opportunity.  Posted on Balkinization:

  1. Constitutional political economy in the New Gilded Age: A revival of legal realism? (Monday, January 25, 2016).
  2. What is “constitutional” about “constitutional political economy”? (Wednesday, February 3, 2016).

Boston Review Forum: “Curbing the New Corporate Power”

How should we understand and control the new forms of corporate power emerging in the sharing economy and the Internet Age? This cover article for the Boston Review forum explores the challenge of corporate power today, drawing on insights from Progressive Era reforms to outline some ways forward.

Main article online here.

Plus great responses and discussion from Richard White, Juliet Schor, Mike Konzcal, Arun Sundararajan, and more. My response to critics online here.