Tag Archives: Economics

D. Casey Flaherty – Law Departments and the Foundation of Law Firm Marketing Bullshit

Link to an article by D. Casey Flaherty:

“Law Departments and the Foundation of Law Firm Marketing Bullshit”


The title of this article is misleading.  The foundation of law firm marketing, and all marketing, is capitalism.  All marketing is misleading.  The entire article is confused because it makes vague references to things like improvement, efficiency, or whatever, without really explaining who benefits or in what way.  Anyway, the parts about the “lawyer theory of value” are useful, as a specific illustration of the old saying “to a hammer every problem looks like a nail.”  But that doesn’t really explain much.  The labor leader Tony Mazzocchi once said that the construction trades would “pave over the Atlantic Ocean, if given the chance.”  It is no different with lawyers and lawyering.  A rather useful frame to apply to these questions is what Paul Kivel discussed in his article “Social Service or Social Change.”  A better framework is public benefit, and a (materialist) distinction between public and private benefit.  Laywers, as part of what Kivel terms the “managerial class”, tend to look like self-interested collaborators with society’s bad actors (the exploitative “power elite”).  The Flaherty article at most sees the problem as one of degree, not of kind.  But corporate benefit — as in increased profits for shareholders of a particular company — is a stupid metric, one that presupposes capitalism and an unfair social structure.  Yet, it is also true that lawyers can do good.  Take, for instance, something that Moshe Lewin discussed in The Soviet Century, about how the Khrushchev administration dismantled the Stalinist gulag system in the former USSR and unwound the brutal system of arbitrary arrest by the NKVD through…increased use of lawyering! This latter example (drawn from a different country and historical period) illustrates a public benefit.  After all, confronting a institutions known for arbitrary persecutions leading to executions, torture and imprisonment in slave labor camps was fraught with potential peril and hardly a simple matter of self-aggrandizement.  Flaherty stops well short of concern for public benefit, discussing only private concerns within the realm of corporate law — and, it should be mentioned, the private concerns of legal consultants like Flaherty.  But if Flaherty did raise concerns about public benefit, it would probably mean eliminating corporations and corporate law departments entirely, eliminating the need for consultants like Flaherty.  The cynicism of this article reflects what Peter Sloterdijk called “enlightened false consciousness”.  Or, perhaps, this can be explained by Upton Sinclair, who long ago said it is hard to get someone to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.

Matt Bruenig & Ryan Cooper – How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth

Link to an article by Matt Bruenig & Ryan Cooper:

“How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth”


As is typical for writing in Jacobin, this article includes a section at the end that draws conclusions unsupported by the body of the article.  For example, the authors state, “No political obstacle stood between President Obama and a better housing policy.”  The article does not address political factors at all, so this is a bald assertion without support.  It also is questionable.  While certain other studies have established how the Democrats during Obama’s era have courted Wall Street and other banking/finance donors, if you follow (for example) Thomas Ferguson‘s “Golden Rule” theory about “investment” in elections, which holds (in greatly simplified form) that politicians are vetted by moneyed interests and masses are too poor to be able to influence the choices offered in an election, then the authors would need to establish that Obama could have raised the same or more money elsewhere (Bernie Sanders’ small donor approach seems like the closest and easiest comparison point).  This also requires an assumption that Obama and the Democrats care/cared about long-term consequences, rather than limiting themselves to short-term thinking (e.g., sacrificing the future for a near-term win) — which is normative.  That criticism aside, the linked article does do a good job illustrating how the problem discussed is fundamentally political in character.

Jodi Dean – The Limits of the Web in an Age of Communicative Capitalism

Link to a video of a lecture by Jodi Dean:

“The Limits of the Web in an Age of Communicative Capitalism”

Bonus quote:

“In communicative capitalism, capitalist productivity derives from its expropriation and exploitation of communicative processes.


“If we are honest, we have to admit that there is actually no such thing as social media. Digital media is class media. Networked communication does not eliminate hierarchy, as we believed, in entrenches it as it uses our own choices against us.


“Dispossession, rather than happening all at once, is an ongoing process. No one will deny the ongoingness of data dispossession. Sometimes it is blatant: the announcement that our call will be monitored for quality assurance, the injunctions to approve Apple’s privacy changes again or the necessity of renewing passwords and credit card information. Sometimes the ongoingness is more subtle; in maps, GPS signals, video surveillance, and the RFID tags on and in items we purchase. And sometimes the ongoingness is completely beyond our grasp, as when datasets are combined and mined so as to give states and corporations actionable data for producing products, patterns, and policies based on knowing things about our interrelations one to another that we do not know ourselves. Here the currents of lives as they are lived are frozen into infinitely separable, countable, and combinatory data-points.

“Approached in terms of class struggle, big data looks like further escalation of capital’s war against labor.”

“Communicative Capitalism and Class Struggle”


Bonus links: C.T. Kurien, “The Market Economy: Theory, Ideology and Reality” and Astra Taylor, The People’s Platform and “The Power Of Selling Out: Your Customers As Political Capital” and Nick Srnicek, Platform Capitalism and Nick Dyer-Witheford, Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex and Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, The Exploit: A Theory of Networks and The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance and Victor Pickard, “Net Neutrality Is Just the Beginning” and “The Collapse of Media and What You Can Do About It” (this article discusses the “breaking” of a self-described “exclusive” story in January 2015 that was for the most part already suggested in When Google Met Wikileaks published in September 2014, though this story was certainly fleshed out further by the later report; this also was used as a plot point in the film Jason Bourne)