Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition

Marxist Legal Theory

Instructor: Jenny Logan
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

While Marx initially studied law, he did not develop a legal theory in the strict sense. Yet Marxism, as a general understanding of social organization and transformation, has unavoidable implications for any conception of the law and how it operates. Is law originally, or ultimately, concerned with property and economic production? Does law reflect autonomous values, or is it a superstructural species of ideology? Can law only work as a form of domination? What would law under socialism look like? In this course we will read and critically evaluate a variety of Marxist approaches to law, beginning with Evgeny Pashukanis’s classic articulation of the “commodity-form” theory of law in his General Theory of Law and Marxism—that is, the idea that law developed out of, and is inextricably linked to, the ownership and exchange of commodities. We will then move to more contemporary Marxist analyses of both domestic and international law in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, centering debates over whether and to what ends we can use law and legal institutions for leftist purposes. Throughout, we will ask: how has law been deployed as an engine of capitalism to maintain monopolies, strengthen class divisions, and police the working classes? How has it saturated social relations and the formation of human subjects? Are legal institutions fundamentally unreformable as tools of global oppression? Should a Marxist believe in or fight for human rights? Readings will be drawn from Evgeny Pashukanis, Paul O’Connel, Ndina Tzouvala, Rob Knox, Sonja Buckel, Grietja Baars, China Mieville, Marti Koskenniemi, Bhupinder Chimni, Paul Sweezy, and others.

Course Schedule

Sunday, 2:00-5:00pm ET
March 10 — March 31, 2024
4 weeks


Registration Closed

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