New Book: Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America (2015). From the publisher’s website:
Standing on the foundations of America’s promise of equal opportunity, our universities purport to serve as engines of social mobility and practitioners of democracy. But as acclaimed scholar and pioneering civil rights advocate Lani Guinier argues, the merit systems that dictate the admissions practices of these institutions are functioning to select and privilege elite individuals rather than create learning communities geared to advance democratic societies. Having studied and taught at schools such as Harvard University, Yale Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Guinier has spent years examining the experiences of ethnic minorities and of women at the nation’s top institutions of higher education, and here she lays bare the practices that impede the stated missions of these schools.
Goaded on by a contemporary culture that establishes value through ranking and sorting, universities assess applicants using the vocabulary of private, highly individualized merit. As a result of private merit standards and ever-increasing tuitions, our colleges and universities increasingly are failing in their mission to provide educational opportunity and to prepare students for productive and engaged citizenship.
To reclaim higher education as a cornerstone of democracy, Guinier argues that institutions of higher learning must focus on admitting and educating a class of students who will be critical thinkers, active citizens, and publicly spirited leaders. Guinier presents a plan for considering “democratic merit,” a system that measures the success of higher education not by the personal qualities of the students who enter but by the work and service performed by the graduates who leave.
Guinier goes on to offer vivid examples of communities that have developed effective learning strategies based not on an individual’s “merit” but on the collaborative strength of a group, learning and working together, supporting members, and evolving into powerful collectives. Examples are taken from across the country and include a wide range of approaches, each innovative and effective. Guinier argues for reformation, not only of the very premises of admissions practices but of the shape of higher education itself.
New (Short) Article: Ezra Rosser, Creating Space for Reservation Growth, 9 Florida International University Law Review 351 (2014) (Invited Symposium Article reviewing Robert J. Miller, Reservation ‘Capitalism’: Economic Development in Indian Country (2012)).
New Book: Social and Economic Rights in Theory and Practice: Critical Inquiries (Helena Alviar García, Karl Klare & Lucy A. Williams eds. 2014). From the publisher:
Since World War II, a growing number of jurisdictions in both the developing and industrialized worlds have adopted progressive constitutions that guarantee social and economic rights (SER) in addition to political and civil rights. Parallel developments have occurred at transnational level with the adoption of treaties that commit signatory states to respect and fulfil SER for their peoples.
This book is a product of the International Social and Economic Rights Project (iSERP), a global consortium of judges, lawyers, human rights advocates, and legal academics who critically examine the effectiveness of SER law in promoting real change in people’s lives. The book addresses a range of practical, political, and legal questions under these headings, with acute sensitivity to the racial, cultural, and gender implications of SER and the path-breaking SER jurisprudence now emerging in the “Global South”.
The book brings together internationally renowned experts in the field of social and economic rights to discuss a range of rights controversies from both theoretical and practical perspectives. Contributors of the book consider specific issues in the litigation and adjudication of SER cases from the differing standpoints of activists, lawyers, and adjudicators in order to identify and address the specific challenges facing the SER community.
This book will be of great use and interest to students and scholars of comparative constitutional law, human rights, public international law, development studies, and democratic political theory.
New Book: Karl Alexander et al., The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (2014). Overview below:
West Baltimore stands out in the popular imagination as the quintessential “inner city”—gritty, run-down, and marred by drugs and gang violence. Indeed, with the collapse of manufacturing jobs in the 1970s, the area experienced a rapid onset of poverty and high unemployment, with few public resources available to alleviate economic distress. But in stark contrast to the image of a perpetual “urban underclass” depicted in television by shows like The Wire, sociologists Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson present a more nuanced portrait of Baltimore’s inner city residents that employs important new research on the significance of early-life opportunities available to low-income populations. The Long Shadow focuses on children who grew up in west Baltimore neighborhoods and others like them throughout the city, tracing how their early lives in the inner city have affected their long-term well-being. Although research for this book was conducted in Baltimore, that city’s struggles with deindustrialization, white flight, and concentrated poverty were characteristic of most East Coast and Midwest manufacturing cities. The experience of Baltimore’s children who came of age during this era is mirrored in the experiences of urban children across the nation.
For 25 years, the authors of The Long Shadow tracked the life progress of a group of almost 800 predominantly low-income Baltimore school children through the Beginning School Study Youth Panel (BSSYP). The study monitored the children’s transitions to young adulthood with special attention to how opportunities available to them as early as first grade shaped their socioeconomic status as adults. The authors’ fine-grained analysis confirms that the children who lived in more cohesive neighborhoods, had stronger families, and attended better schools tended to maintain a higher economic status later in life. As young adults, they held higher-income jobs and had achieved more personal milestones (such as marriage) than their lower-status counterparts. Differences in race and gender further stratified life opportunities for the Baltimore children. As one of the first studies to closely examine the outcomes of inner-city whites in addition to African Americans, data from the BSSYP shows that by adulthood, white men of lower status family background, despite attaining less education on average, were more likely to be employed than any other group in part due to family connections and long-standing racial biases in Baltimore’s industrial economy. Gender imbalances were also evident: the women, who were more likely to be working in low-wage service and clerical jobs, earned less than men. African American women were doubly disadvantaged insofar as they were less likely to be in a stable relationship than white women, and therefore less likely to benefit from a second income.
Combining original interviews with Baltimore families, teachers, and other community members with the empirical data gathered from the authors’ groundbreaking research, The Long Shadow unravels the complex connections between socioeconomic origins and socioeconomic destinations to reveal a startling and much-needed examination of who succeeds and why.
New Book: Bernadette Atuahene, We Want What’s Ours: Learning from South Africa’s Land Restitution Program (2014). Overview below:
Millions of people all over the world have been displaced from their homes and property. Dispossessed individuals and communities often lose more than the physical structures they live in and their material belongings, they are also denied their dignity. These are dignity takings, and land dispossessions occurring in South Africa during colonialism and apartheid are quintessential examples. There have been numerous examples of dignity takings throughout the world, but South Africa stands apart because of its unique remedial efforts. The nation has attempted to move beyond the more common step of providing reparations (compensation for physical losses) to instead facilitating dignity restoration, which is a comprehensive remedy that seeks to restore property while also confronting the underlying dehumanization, infantilization, and political exclusion that enabled the injustice. Dignity restoration is the fusion of reparations with restorative justice. In We Want Whats Ours, Bernadette Atuahenes detailed research and interviews with over one hundred and fifty South Africans who participated in the nations land restitution program provide a snapshot of South Africas successes and failures in achieving dignity restoration.
We Want What’s Ours is globally relevant because dignity takings have happened all around the world and throughout history: the Nazi confiscation of property from Jews during World War II; the Hutu taking of property from Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide; the widespread commandeering of native peoples property across the globe; and Saddam Husseins seizing of property from the Kurds and others in Iraq are but a few examples. When people are deprived of their property and dignity in years to come, the lessons learned in South Africa can help governments, policy makers, scholars, and international institutions make the transition from reparations to the more robust project of dignity restoration.
Upcoming Event and New Book: The World Bank has published a new book, Emil Tesliuc et al., Income Support for the Poorest: A Review of Experience in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (2014) and is also hosting a related book panel on July 9 from 3-4:30pm at the World Bank in Washington, D.C (Auditorium J1-050; World Bank J Building, 701 18th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20433; RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org).
-Thanks to Paul Prettitore for the the heads up!
New Book: Clare Huntington, Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships (2014). Description below:
Exploring the connection between families and inequality, Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships argues that the legal regulation of families stands fundamentally at odds with the needs of families. Strong, stable, positive relationships are essential for both individuals and society to flourish, but from transportation policy to the criminal justice system, and from divorce rules to the child welfare system, the legal system makes it harder for parents to provide children with these kinds of relationships, exacerbating the growing inequality in America.
Failure to Flourish contends that we must re-orient the legal system to help families avoid crises and, when conflicts arise, intervene in a manner that heals relationships. To understand how wrong our family law system has gone and what we need to repair it, Failure to Flourish takes us from ancient Greece to cutting-edge psychological research, and from the chaotic corridors of local family courts to a quiet revolution under way in how services are provided to families in need. Incorporating the latest insights of positive psychology and social science research, the book sets forth a new, more emotionally intelligent vision for a legal system that not only resolves conflict but actively encourages the healthy relationships that are at the core of a stable society.
For those adopting or thinking about adopting Poverty Law, Policy, and Practice (2014), the chapter-by-chapter teacher’s manual is now available on the publisher’s website under “Professor Materials.” To get access to the teacher’s manual, feel free to email any of us (Juliet Brodie, Clare Pastore, Ezra Rosser, and Jeffrey Selbin) or contact your Aspen representative. The front matter is here: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2391540. We are also happy to discuss the book and teaching poverty law with anyone who is considering the book and/or the class. Our hope is that the book (and the teacher’s manual) will be of use and will help more schools and professors offer the class.
Zed Books in connection with CROP has a call for submissions of book manuscripts related to poverty, with a deadline of Aug. 31, 2014. (They want manuscripts to be in the 80,000-100,000 word range.) Their list of prior books can be found here and includes notably Lucy Williams’ International Poverty Law – An Emerging Discourse (2011).
Interesting Op-Ed: The Piketty Panic – NYTimes.com. [Includes nice links and is convincing that Capital in the Twenty-First Century is well worth reading.]