Movement Law.

AuthorAkbar, Amna A.

Table of Contents Introduction I. Responding to the Crises of Our Times A. Critical Race Theory B. Movement Law Today II. Toward Movement Law A. Locating Resistance B. Thinking Alongside Strategies and Pathways for Justice C. Shifting the Episteme D. Adopting a Solidaristic Stance III. Revisiting the Scholarly Stance A. Objectivity B. Rigor C. Positionality IV. Legal Scholarship and Radical Possibility Conclusion Introduction

It has never been clearer how ideas birthed in and by social movements are fundamental forces in law and politics in the United States. (1) On the left (2) in the last decade, Occupy Wall Street coined "the 9996," mobilized people against growing economic inequality and corporate power, and laid a foundation for the deepening of anticapitalist critique and socialist politics. (3) The Ferguson and Baltimore rebellions, combined with organizing by the Movement for Black Lives (M (4) BL) and a growing constellation of abolitionist organizations, have made anti-Blackness, white supremacy, and police violence core issues on the liberal-to-left spectrum and redefined the terms of policy debate. (4) Young people are organizing for a Green New Deal, a response to the environmental crisis that is remaking climate-change politics. (5) Indigenous resistance from Hawaii to the Dakotas is connecting environmental justice to the revival of anticolonial land politics. (6) Through strikes and organizing, nurses, teachers, and "rideshare" drivers are reasserting the centrality of worker power to social movements and economic, racial, and gender justice. (7) This scale and volume of left social movement activity--our focus--marks a resurgence of contestation after decades of relative quiet. (8) Today's social movements are meeting the existential crises of our time with vision, scale, and infrastructure. They reflect the growing sense that neoliberal law and politics has failed the majority of people in the United States. And they point the way toward transformation.

This particular moment of political, economic, and social crisis demands that more of us consider how to work alongside such efforts. In this Article, we identity a methodology for working alongside social movements within scholarly work. We argue that legal scholars should take seriously the epistemological universe of today's left social movements, their imaginations, experiments, tactics, and strategies for legal and social change. We call this methodology movement law.

Movement law is not the study of social movements; rather, it is investigation and analysis with social movements. Social movements are the partners of movement law scholars rather than their subject. For at least three decades, legal scholars have studied social movements, creating a "law and social movements" subdiscipline. (9) We are inspired by this work, and we believe it is essential for scholars to write about movements to understand the theories of social change that they embody. We aim to articulate something distinct: a methodology for legal scholars across areas of law.

Movement law is also distinct from movement lawyering, an approach to lawyering in solidarity with social movements. (10) Movement lawyering aims to create space within public-interest practice to work with movements to build grassroots power. (11) In contrast, our focus is on creating space within legal scholarship to think alongside social movements. To be sure, these are related endeavors, and many movement law scholars engage in movement lawyering. But in this Article we give sustained attention to scholarly method.

Movement law approaches scholarly thinking and writing about law, justice, and social change as work done in solidarity with social movements, local organizing, and other forms of collective struggle. As it begins in solidarity and with commitments to justice and freedom, it often begins outside of the law as traditionally conceived. In this way, movement law builds on the work of jurisprudential schools of thought such as critical legal studies (CLS), critical race theory (CRT), Latina/o critical theory (LatCrit), feminist legal theory, critical lawyering, and democratic constitutionalism. By looking to lived experience and structures of inequality, scholars in these critical traditions have long complicated conventional accounts of law--what it does and for whom and how it can and should change--with an eye toward collective struggle and ideation. (12) As Chuck Lawrence has recently underscored, CRT teaches us that "[a]ll race reform, all racial justice, is achieved through the work of people who join together in justice movements to disrupt systems and institutions of plunder and to contest the racialized narratives that justify that plunder." (13) Movement law centers itself within this history of critical thought.

We are interested in social movements for their potential to democratize our politics and embolden our visions for change. Social movements exist on all sides of the political spectrum. Indeed, scholars across the ideological spectrum might claim movement law. But for us, because our own solidarity is born out of commitments to a certain understanding of social, political, and economic justice, our focus is on left movements today: those that aim to redistribute life chances and resources; those that aim to end our reliance on prisons and police to solve political, economic, and social problems; those that confront systems of white supremacy, anti-Blackness, capitalism, ableism, cisnormativity, and heteropatriarchy; and those that struggle to fundamentally transform state and society. In this Article we focus on movements that posit wholesale transformation rather than reform as their end goal; that challenge elite rule and aim to build democracy from the ground up; and that focus on collective rather than individual well-being. (14) Collectivity--across race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, and social location--leads to solidarity with the potential to profoundly shift our modes of living into ones that are more sustainable and more equitable.

Social movements have marshaled some of the most profound changes in how we relate to one another and what we can expect of the state. (15) Social movements break the molds of political discourse, project new possible futures, and create terrains of engagement for more people. They galvanize hope and collective action rather than cynicism and alienation in a way that can guide people to face the historically rooted material crises of our time. (16) Radical visions--where the scale of the vision matches the scale of the problems we face--can change what we think is possible both within and outside of the law. The visions of movement actors and organizations point us toward forms of reconstruction that call us to participate in remaking the world in more just ways.

Social movements are central to left intellectual traditions. (17) Scholars across disciplines are studying with renewed curiosity the histories of movements and enslavement and colonialism; capitalism and white supremacy; and race, class, and political economy. (18) More than ever, this is a time for legal scholars to focus on social movements.

When we produce legal scholarship, we propagate ideas. Typically, we tell stories about what is wrong with our systems and institutions of law, and we advocate for solutions. Legal scholarship--adjacent to the coercive power of the state--is inherently normative then. (19) Movements, like scholars, are fundamentally invested in the realm of ideas. But unlike most legal scholarship, left movements are invested in disrupting the status quo and transforming political, economic, and social relations. Movements often start with disrupting ideas and telling new stories about what is possible. Movement law attempts to engage, celebrate, and participate in disruption from the grassroots. When this effort arises from within the university, it is necessarily contradictory given the university's central role in reproducing elite rule and the myth of meritocracy. Nonetheless, we believe it is important and possible for legal scholars to support efforts at radical and popular ideation toward transformation. Otherwise, we acquiesce to a much narrower and more elite discourse.

When we speak of producing scholarship in conversation with movements, we do not mean to limit our solidarity to currently existing social movements. Instead, we focus more broadly on collectives of people struggling together to generate new ideas and ways of living together, whether they are current or historical, and whether they are full-fledged social organizations, fledgling formations of community members in struggle, local organizing groups, unions, or worker centers. (20) We use the term "movement" because of the collective strength and potential for transformative change that it implies.

This Article proceeds as follows. In Part I, we ground the methodology of movement law in both the urgency of our current moment and past innovations in legal scholarship. In Part II, we turn to the question of methodology. We sketch out four moves that together form what we see as a distinct and emergent strand of movement law scholarship. The moves are (1) locating resistance; (2) thinking alongside strategies, tactics, and experiments for justice; (3) shifting epistemes; and (4) adopting a solidaristic stance. These four moves may not exist in every piece of movement law scholarship. But the moves build on and deepen one another, resulting in scholarship that we believe has the potential to contribute to political, economic, and social transformation.

In Part III, we examine the place of movement law within conceptions of normative legal scholarship, recognizing that movement law may challenge assumptions within the academy about objectivity and rigor. We also take up the risks of fetishizing or feeling beholden to particular social movements. While...

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