April 14, 2023

9:15 am - 5:00 pm, Pacific Time

Reviving Progressive Constitutional Political Economy

The event will be livestreamed here.

For most of our history, when Americans argued and fought about how to organize our political economy—the role of government, the extent and reach of redistribution, the tension between democracy and concentrated private wealth and power—advocates on all sides of these questions made constitutional arguments. For generations, a main current in American constitutional thought held that oligarchy—too much economic and political power concentrated in too few hands—threatens the “Republican form of government” at the heart of the Constitution.

The main arenas for all these constitutional arguments were the political branches and the public sphere. Today, the dominant mode of constitutional argument is different: it is far more focused on—and far more deferential to—the Supreme Court, which is now busy reviving the reactionary, anti-redistributive outlook of the Lochner Era.

Spurred by the publication of Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath’s book The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: Reconstructing the Economic Foundations of American Democracy (Harvard 2022), this conference brings together cutting-edge thinkers and scholars working in a variety of areas to explore what it would mean to put constitutional arguments at the core of Law & Political Economy (LPE), and to return political economy arguments to the heart of constitutional politics.

This conference explores the provocative question: what if we revived this progressive tradition of constitutional political economy? What work could anti-oligarchy principles and arguments do in our current moment? How can legislators, executive branch officials, and ordinary Americans draw on these traditions to challenge and counter, check and balance an out-of-control Supreme Court.


Schedule of Events


9:15 – 9:30 a.m.

Larry Kramer

The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: A Brief Overview

9:30 – 9:45 a.m.

William Forbath

Panel I: Should We Re-Constitutionalize Progressive Political Economy?

9:45 – 11:45 a.m.

David Grewal, Angela Harris, Dirk Hartog, Paul Pierson, Joseph Fishkin


12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Panel II: Beyond the War on Crime/Toward a Third Reconstruction

1:15 – 3:00 p.m.

Jon Simon, Devon Carbado, Loïc Wacquant, john powell, Ian Haney-Lopez

Panel III: Reviving Labor’s Constitution

3:15 – 5:00 p.m.

Catherine Albiston, Catherine Fisk, Veena Dubal, Jim Pope, Diana Reddy

A reception will be held for registered guests and participants at the Bancroft Hotel form 5:15 to 6:30.



If you require accommodation for effective communication or information about campus mobility access features in order to fully participate in this event, please contact Access Coordinator Jenny Boyden at boyden@law.berkeley.edu  by April 3. Thank you.

Berkeley Law COVID Policy:

In order to attend this event you must have completed the initial series of original vaccines and have had a booster when eligible after the initial vaccine series, or have an exception based on a Medical Exemption, Disability, or Religious Objection. Everyone entering the Law Building is strongly encouraged to wear a high quality mask while in the building (N-95, KN-95, KF94, or surgical mask covered by a cloth mask for a more secure fit).