The Yale Law Journal

April 2020

Building a Law-and-Political-Economy Framework: Beyond the Twentieth-Century Synthesis

Law and EconomicsLegal History

abstract. We live in a time of interrelated crises. Economic inequality and precarity, and crises of democracy, climate change, and more raise significant challenges for legal scholarship and thought. “Neoliberal” premises undergird many fields of law and have helped authorize policies and practices that reaffirm the inequities of the current era. In particular, market efficiency, neutrality, and formal equality have rendered key kinds of power invisible, and generated a skepticism of democratic politics. The result of these presumptions is what we call the “Twentieth-Century Synthesis”: a pervasive view of law that encases “the market” from claims of justice and conceals it from analyses of power.

This Feature offers a framework for identifying and critiquing the Twentieth-Century Synthesis. This is also a framework for a new “law-and-political-economy approach” to legal scholarship. We hope to help amplify and catalyze scholarship and pedagogy that place themes of power, equality, and democracy at the center of legal scholarship.

author. The authors are, respectively, William S. Beinecke Professor of Law at Columbia Law School; Professor of Law at Berkeley Law School; Professor of Law at Yale Law School; and Associate Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and President, Demos. They are cofounders of the Law & Political Economy Project. The authors thank Anne Alstott, Jack Balkin, Jessica Bulman-Pozen, Corinne Blalock, Angela Harris, Luke Herrine, Doug Kysar, Zach Liscow, Daniel Markovits, Bill Novak, Frank Pasquale, Robert Post, David Pozen, Aziz Rana, Kate Redburn, Reva Siegel, Talha Syed, John Witt, and the participants of the January 2019 Law and Political Economy Workshop at Yale Law School for their comments on drafts at many stages of the project.