Category Archives: Books

New Book: Data and Democracy at Work: Advanced Information Technologies, Labor Law, and the New Working Class

New Book: Brishen Rogers, Data and Democracy at Work: Advanced Information Technologies, Labor Law, and the New Working Class (MIT Press 2023). Overview below:

An exploration of how major companies have used advanced information technologies to limit worker power, and how labor law reform could reverse that trend.

As our economy has shifted away from industrial production and service industries have become dominant, many of the nation’s largest employers are now in fields like retail, food service, logistics, and hospitality. These companies have turned to data-driven surveillance technologies that operate over a vast distance, enabling cheaper oversight of massive numbers of workers. Data and Democracy at Work argues that companies often use new data-driven technologies as a power resource—or even a tool of class domination—and that our labor laws allow them to do so.

Employers have established broad rights to use technology to gather data on workers and their performance, to exclude others from accessing that data, and to use that data to refine their managerial strategies. Through these means, companies have suppressed workers’ ability to organize and unionize, thereby driving down wages and eroding working conditions.

Labor law today encourages employer dominance in many ways—but labor law can also be reformed to become a tool for increased equity. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent Great Resignation have indicated an increased political mobilization of the so-called essential workers of the pandemic, many of them service industry workers. This book describes the necessary legal reforms to increase workers’ associational power and democratize workplace data, establishing more balanced relationships between workers and employers and ensuring a brighter and more equitable future for us all.

Notes on Jason DeParle’s A Good Provider is One Who Leaves

51vrJExxcCL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This is delayed, but I wanted to pass along a good word about Jason DeParle’s A Good Provider is One Who Leaves (2019). Some readers will recognize DeParle as the author of American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and A Nation’s Drive to End Welfare (2005), which remains an outstanding book to recommend to students to better understand welfare reform. DeParle’s newest book is good, but does have a smaller audience and is told differently. Whereas American Dream pings back-and-forth between the story of the people profiled and the larger politics of welfare reform, A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves pings less frequently. Having previously written about immigrant remittances and about the connection between remittances and food security, I knew from DeParle’s previous reporting for the New York Times that the book would do a good job covering remittances. And it does. As well as politics, and the moral horror of the Trump campaign and nativism of the Trump Administration.  But the book is primarily the story of a family and their moves across the globe to find opportunity in the Middle East and eventually in Galveston, Texas. By the end of the book, the reader is left with a vivid portrait of what love looks like and the lengths parents will go to provide for their families and to give their kids a chance at a better life. It may have less of the social and political science infused into the text than American Dream but it is an incredible story for other reasons. Mainly because it lets the reader into the lives of one striving family.

New Book: Illusions of Progress

New Book: Brent Cebul, Illusions of Progress Business, Poverty, and Liberalism in the American Century, (U. Penn. Press 2023). Description below:

Today, the word “neoliberal” is used to describe an epochal shift toward market-oriented governance begun in the 1970s. Yet the roots of many of neoliberalism’s policy tools can be traced to the ideas and practices of mid-twentieth-century liberalism.

In Illusions of Progress, Brent Cebul chronicles the rise of what he terms “supply-side liberalism,” a powerful and enduring orientation toward politics and the economy, race and poverty, that united local chambers of commerce, liberal policymakers and economists, and urban and rural economic planners. Beginning in the late 1930s, New Dealers tied expansive aspirations for social and, later, racial progress to a variety of economic development initiatives. In communities across the country, otherwise conservative business elites administered liberal public works, urban redevelopment, and housing programs. But by binding national visions of progress to the local interests of capital, liberals often entrenched the very inequalities of power and opportunity they imagined their programs solving.

When President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty—which prioritized direct partnerships with poor and racially marginalized citizens—businesspeople, Republicans, and soon, a rising generation of New Democrats sought to rein in its seeming excesses by reinventing and redeploying many of the policy tools and commitments pioneered on liberalism’s supply side: public-private partnerships, market-oriented solutions, fiscal “realism,” and, above all, subsidies for business-led growth now promised to blunt, and perhaps ultimately replace, programs for poor and marginalized Americans.

In this wide-ranging book, Brent Cebul illuminates the often-overlooked structures of governance, markets, and public debt through which America’s warring political ideologies have been expressed and transformed. From Washington, D.C. to the declining Rustbelt and emerging Sunbelt and back again, Illusions of Progress reveals the centrality of public and private forms of profit that have defined the enduring boundaries of American politics, opportunity, and inequality— in an era of liberal ascendance and an age of neoliberal retrenchment.

LPE Blog Symposium on A Nation Within

Though this risks being understood as self-promotion, I really do want to thank the participants in the Law and Political Economy Blog’s symposium on my book, A Nation Within: Navajo Land and Economic Development (Cambridge University Press 2021) [Preface and introduction available here]. Here are the responses/essays collected by the LPE Blog:

-Ezra Rosser, Introduction to the Symposium, LPE Blog (Dec. 6, 2022)

-Angela Riley, Good Native Governance for the Seven Generations, LPE Blog (Dec. 8, 2022)

-Lauren Van Schilfgaarde, Tribal Consultation and Right and Obligation, LPE Blog (Dec. 12, 2022)

-Dana E. Powell, Recovering Emergence: A Nation Within What?, LPE Blog (Dec. 14, 2022)

A big thank you to the authors and to the LPE editors who decided to take this on, James Brandt, Corrine Blalock, and Raúl Carrillo. Thank you!


New Book: Trapped In a Maze

New Book: Leslie Paik, Trapped in a Maze How Social Control Institutions Drive Family Poverty and Inequality, UC Press (2021). About below:

Trapped in a Maze provides a window into families’ lived experiences in poverty by looking at their complex interactions with institutions such as welfare, hospitals, courts, housing, and schools. Families are more intertwined with institutions than ever as they struggle to maintain their eligibility for services and face the possibility that involvement with one institution could trigger other types of institutional oversight. Many poor families find themselves trapped in a multi-institutional maze, stuck in between several systems with no clear path to resolution. Tracing the complex and often unpredictable journeys of families in this maze, this book reveals how the formal rationality by which these institutions ostensibly operate undercuts what they can actually achieve. And worse, it demonstrates how involvement with multiple institutions can perpetuate the conditions of poverty that these families are fighting to escape.

Leslie Paik is Professor of Sociology at Arizona State University. She is the author of Discretionary Justice: Looking inside a Juvenile Drug Court. 

New Book: We the Elites: Why the US Constitution Serves the Few

New Book: Robert Ovetz, We the Elites: Why the US Constitution Serves the Few (Pluto Press 2022). Overview below:

Written by 55 of the richest white men, and signed by only 39 of them, the US constitution is the sacred text of American nationalism. Popular perceptions of it are mired in idolatry, myth and misinformation – many Americans have opinions on the constitution but have little idea what it says.

This book examines the constitution for what it is – a rulebook for elites to protect capitalism from democracy. Social movements have misplaced faith in the constitution as a tool for achieving justice when it actually impedes social change through the many roadblocks and obstructions we call ‘checks and balances’. This stymies urgent progress on issues like labour rights, poverty, public health and climate change, propelling the American people and rest of the world towards destruction.

Robert Ovetz’s reading of the constitution shows that the system isn’t broken. Far from it. It works as it was designed to.

New Book: America’s Frozen Neighborhoods

New Book: Robert C. Ellickson, America’s Frozen Neighborhoods, Yale University Press, (Oct. 18, 2022). Overview below:

frozen neighThis book examines local zoning policies and suggests reforms that states and the federal government might adopt to counter the negative effects of exclusionary zoning

In this book, Robert Ellickson asserts that local zoning policies are the most consequential regulatory program in the United States. Many localities have created barriers to the development of less costly forms of housing. Numerous economists have found that current zoning practices inflict major damage on the national economy. Using Silicon Valley, the Greater New Haven area, and the northwestern portion of Greater Austin as case studies, Ellickson shows in unprecedented detail how the zoning system works and recommends steps for its reform. Zoning regulations, Ellickson demonstrates, are hard to dislodge once localities have enacted them. He develops metrics to measure the existence and costs of exclusionary zoning, and suggests reforms that states and the federal government could undertake to counter the detrimental effects of local policies. These include the cartelization of housing markets and the aggravation of racial and class segregation.

Robert C. Ellickson is Walter E. Meyer Professor Emeritus of Property and Urban Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. He is the author of Order without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes.

New Book: Prosecuting Poverty, Criminalizing Care

9781108465533New Book: Wendy Bach, Prosecuting Poverty, Criminalizing Care (Cambridge University Press 2022). Overview below:

At the height of the opiate epidemic, Tennessee lawmakers made it a crime for a pregnant woman to transmit narcotics to a fetus. They promised that charging new mothers with this crime would help them receive the treatment and support they often desperately need. In Prosecuting Poverty, Criminalizing Care, Wendy Bach describes the law’s actual effect through meticulous examination of the cases of 120 women who were prosecuted for this crime. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data, Bach demonstrates that both prosecuting ‘fetal assault’, and institutionalizing the all-too-common idea that criminalization is a road to care, lead at best to clinically dangerous and corrupt treatment, and at worst, and far more often, to an insidious smokescreen obscuring harsh punishment. Urgent, instructive, and humane, this retelling demands we stop criminalizing care and instead move towards robust and respectful systems that meet the real needs of families in poor communities.


New Book: “Best Laid Plans: Women Coming of Age in Uncertain Times”

best laid plansNew Book: Jessica Halliday Hardie, Best Laid Plans: Women Coming of Age in Uncertain Times, Overview below:

Given the range of possibilities open to women today, what futures do adolescent girls dream of and pursue? And how do social class and race play into their trajectories? In asking young women about their aspirations in three areas—school, work, and family—Best Laid Plans demonstrates how future plans are framed by notions of gendered responsibilities and abilities. Through her examination of the lives of poor, working-class, and middle-class Black and White young women as they navigate the transition to adulthood, sociologist Jessica Halliday Hardie defines anew what it means for young women to come of age. In particular, Hardie shows how social capital, either possessed or lacked, is not simply a resource for planning for the future but a structure whose form and function varies by social class and race. As these inequalities persist into adulthood, high aspirations, social capital, and careful planning bolster some young women while hindering others.

Drawing on qualitative data from a five-year period, Best Laid Plans makes the case for why we need to move beyond the individual appeal to “dream bigger” and “plan better” and toward systematic changes that will put young people’s aspirations within reach.

Jessica Halliday Hardie is Associate Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and faculty affiliate at the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research.

New Book: “Squatting and the State: Resilient Property in an Age of Crisis”

9781108738033New Book: Lorna Fox O’Mahony & Marc L. Roark, Squatting and the State: Resilient Property in an Age of Crisis (Cambridge University Press 2022). Overview below:

Squatting and the State offers a new theoretical and methodological approach for analyzing state response to squatting, homelessness, empty land, and housing. Embedded in local, national, and transnational contexts, and reaching beyond conventional property theories, this important work sets out a fresh analytical paradigm for understanding the deep, interlocking problems facing not just the traditional ‘victims’ of narratives about homelessness and squatting but also a variety of other participants in these conflicts. Against the backdrop of economic, social, and political crises, Squatting and the State offers readers important insights about the changing natures of property, investment, housing, communities, and the multi-level state, and describes the implications of these changes for how we think and talk about property in law.