Spring 2024

Marxism and Law

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-366  |  Political Science, as POSC-366


Michaela J. Brangan (Section 01)
Pavel Machala (Section 01)


(Offered as POSC 366 and LJST 366 Analytic Seminar) By exposing structures of domination and coercion and undermining the beliefs and values which sustain them, Marxists seek to pave the way towards radical social transformation. Tensions arise between revolutionary politics and the “rule of law"; liberals revere and authoritarians impose. The Marxist critique of capitalism necessarily involves inquiry into law, since legal relations are mutually constitutive with other social relations and law is a crucial component in the totality of capitalist social relations. While Karl Marx never produced a comprehensive theory of law, state, and rights, there is much in his work and in the broader Marxist tradition that can help us understand the nature and role of law in contemporary capitalism. In this course, we will explore how movements for fundamental social change can effectively engage with marxist legal theories. What does Marx’s famous phrase “Between equal rights, force decides” really mean? What is the nature of the relationship between the coercive power of law and class struggle? How can Marxist thought help to demystify legal mainstays like property and contract rights, labor relations, and state police powers? How have Marxism-inspired liberation and resistance movements situated themselves in relation to law over time? In addition to Marx’s own writings, we will draw from the works of important Marxist political theorists like Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser and key Marxist legal scholars like Evgeny Pashukanis, Karl Renner, Alan Hunt, China Mieville, Brenna Bhandar, Aziz Rana, and, as well as the Critical Legal Studies movement, Critical Race Theory, and the emergent Law and Political Economy movement.

Consent required. Not open to first year students. Requisite: recommended, any one or two of the following (OR similar) courses: LJST 103, 110, POSC 145, 226, 334, 415. This course fulfills the analytical seminar requirement for LJST.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Machala and Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to juniors and seniors, who have taken to political theory courses and LJST majors. .

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: An emphasis on written work, readings, independent research, oral presentations, group work!

LJST 366 - LEC

Section 01
W 2:00 PM - 4:45 PM CHAP 203


Other years: Offered in Spring 2025