Neoliberalism and Radical Rights: On the Work and Theory of Law and Organising
(2022) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law
This article aims to contribute to scholarship regarding the critique of rights through the examination of the role of rights discourse in the furtherance of what is generally termed ‘community organising’—in particular, tenant organising—in the social and political context of neoliberalism. Conceptions of neoliberalism advanced in the work of David Harvey, Michel Foucault, Wendy Brown, and Bonnie Honig are synthesised to explicate the material and discursive role of law in the maintenance and furtherance of the neoliberal project. The article assesses the left-legal critique of rights presented primarily through the Critical Legal Studies Movement alongside the role of legal practice and legal discourse in countering neoliberalism. The article argues that rights claims concerning collective organisation, such as those commonly afforded to workers and trade unions, present a unique exception to the left-legal critique of rights in providing the means by which oppressive social relations may not only be remedies, but overcome. The works of Chantal Mouffe and of Roberto Unger are instructive in this regard and are placed in conversation with theories of community and labour organising. The article concludes by sketching the application of this conception of organising rights to the problem of housing and tenants’ rights under neoliberalism. © 2022, Crown.
Community organizing; Critical legal studies (CLS); Labour law; Law; Legal rights; Neoliberalism; Rights discourse; Tenant unionism