4145 Law, Neoliberalism and the Political Economy II

Room: C4.07


Chair: David Whyte | University of Liverpool

Jose Atiles | CES/FCT

Debt, Exceptionality and Neoliberal Law: A socio-legal analysis of the Puerto Rican Economic Crisis




This paper analyzes the uses of the law and of the colonial state of exception as dispositives to address the Puerto Rican economic crisis. The Puerto Rican economic crisis started in 2006, and reached its peak moment in 2016, when the local (colonized) government defaulted on the payment of its bond obligations and its public debt. As a result, the US (colonial) government addressed the economic crisis by passing legislation and by addressing two cases on economic and financial issues concerning Puerto Rico. In this paper, I will be analyzing the 2016 US Supreme Court ruling, Puerto Rico v. Franklin California Tax-Free Trust, and the US Congress Law, Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA. Regarding Puerto Rico v. Franklin California, the Supreme Court ruled that the local government does not have the sovereignty to legislate a Bankruptcy Law, whereas for PROMESA, the US Congress legislated a special law to allow the government of Puerto Rico to restructure its finances. PROMESA also includes the creation and imposition of a Financial Oversight and Control Board, a colonial Junta empowered with the legal capacity of ruling the Puerto Rican government. Both instances show how the US colonial government in Puerto Rico uses the state of exception as economic policy and as a dispositive to administrate the economic crisis. As a result, this paper proposes a socio-legal analysis of how the law operates in the context of a colonial-economic crisis, and seeks to identify alternatives to the current precarious situation Puerto Ricans are living under. 

David Whyte | University of Liverpool

Destabilising the Legal Foundations of Corporate Power




The starting point for this paper is the assumption that the modern corporation is intrinsically anti-social and socially destructive.  Observable experience of advanced capitalist economies through the 20th and early 21st centuries provide undeniable evdence that profit-making corporations cannot be taken seriously as an ‘acceptable face of capitalism’ in any empirical or theoretical sense.  In order to offer antidote to the ubiquitousness and seemingly immutable social status of the modern corporation, the paper argues for the development of a meaningful long-term challenge to the legal foundations of corporate power.  There is no shortcut or easy route to meeting this challenge.  As a prelude to proposing an agenda that can fundamentally challenge the legal power of corporations, the paper deconstructs four key ways in which political and economic systems grant material power to the corporation through law: the corporation as ‘public servant’ (entitled to privileges because of its public status); the corporation as ‘property owner’ (entitled to privileges because of its status as form of property relation); the corporation as an ‘accounting entity’ (entitled to privileges granted historically though the organization and recording of transactions); and the corporation as ‘master’ (granted privileges over employees within complex chains of command and sub-contractual relationships).   The golden thread running through those sets of privileges is the liberal reification of the corporation as a (legally, politically and socially) autonomous actor, and thus an 'acceptable' face of capitalism.  Following Stone’s understanding of the relationship between essential legal relations and derivative sub-relations (concepts that make the link between economic and social relations, legal relations and particular rules), the paper sets out a list of speculative proposals that might be capable of meaningfully destabilising the legal foundations of corporate power.

Silvia Rodríguez Maeso | Centre for Social Studies, Unviersity of Coimbra

Reporting and legislating about racism in Portugal (1985-2016): ‘multiraciality’, universalism and exception.




This paper analysis the reports submitted by the Portuguese state to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – the independent body that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CEARD) and the debates over the legislation to combat racial discrimination in the country. The analysis examines how the different regimes of denial of racism are embedded in the rhetoric of its exceptionality in the Portuguese and European contexts. In particular, the paper will show how the changing imaginary of Portugal as a ‘multiracial’ and ‘multicultural’ society is interrelated to a policy discourse grounded on the idea(l) of a universal approach towards discrimination that both denies and naturalizes ‘race’ and the process of racialization. In this context, poverty becomes a sort of ‘neutral’ condition in the sense that it is not considered as embedded in specific histories and legal contexts that have affected racialized and white people, in a different fashion.



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