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Living as a commodity: Law, exploitation and the trade on human lives
Stockholm University, Faculty of Law, Department of Law.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1751-0536
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation investigates the role of the law in affording the conditions of possibility for exploitation to install and reproduce itself in the context of contemporary capitalism. It engages with the dialectical incompossibility of some of the key normative assumptions embedded in the law and the economy vis-à-vis their phenomenological consequences. With support from Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory, the dissertation relies on two main examples – patents on essential medicines and labour exploitation – to examine the tension between expropriation and accumulation. It advances the novel concept of “ablegality” as a register for the remainder that every phenomenological-hermeneutic operation will inevitably generate as the potentiality that accompanies all phenomenological reduction. The principal contribution made through this dissertation lies in articulating the role of the invisibilised side of legal operations as drivers for exploitation and, ultimately, for injustice to manifest legally.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Law, Stockholm University , 2024.
Keywords [en]
exploitation, systems theory, ablegality, irresponsibility, critical theory
National Category
Law (excluding Law and Society) Sociology
Research subject
Legal Science, specialisation Public International Law
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-228785ISBN: 978-91-8014-819-1 (print)ISBN: 978-91-8014-820-7 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-228785DiVA, id: diva2:1854850
Public defence
2024-06-14, ALB auditorium 3, house 2, Albano, Albanovägen 18 and online via Zoom, public link is available at the department website, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-05-22 Created: 2024-04-29 Last updated: 2024-05-16Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Scarcity, Property Rights, Irresponsibility: How Intellectual Property Deals with Neglected Tropical Diseases
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Scarcity, Property Rights, Irresponsibility: How Intellectual Property Deals with Neglected Tropical Diseases
2023 (English)In: Law and Critique, ISSN 0957-8536, E-ISSN 1572-8617, no 34, p. 145-164Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The article addresses the role of scarcity in negotiating the relationship between intellectual property, particularly from a legal-economic perspective, and property rights, as understood by transaction cost economics, to shed light on the deadlock faced by those suffering from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The consistency of the law and economics fundamentals that support the trade on knowledge goods, namely patents on essential medicines, is put under check by Scott Veitch’s scholarship on legal irresponsibility. The damages that emerge from the operations of the intellectual property system are registered in the novel concept of negative public domain, and are due mainly to the lack of access to treatments that end up being unaffordable, or to innovation that leads to new drugs that is not sufficiently incentivised though price signals. The accountability for such damages is taken into consideration by arguing that the disavowal of responsibility is made possible by the negative public domain, which is balanced by the construction of a positive response through the language of rights. As such, responsibility per se is preserved, evading one instantiation of Teubner’s legal paradoxes, but rendered ineffective by design. In other words, even if the harms endured by those affected by the NTDs can be traced back to the operations of the intellectual property system, there is no one to hold accountable. The main goal pursued through the article is to make such an arrangement explicit, by giving centrality to the notion of scarcity and its interplay between legal and economic theory, alongside the novel concept of negative public domain as a site where the actual consequences of irresponsibility lie, to hopefully inform further critique in subsequent works.

Keywords
Scarcity, irresponsibility, intellectural property, neglected tropical diseases, public domain
National Category
Law and Society
Research subject
Law and Economics; Jurisprudence
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-206802 (URN)10.1007/s10978-022-09324-3 (DOI)000815552200001 ()2-s2.0-85132805794 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Stockholm University, NAStockholm University
Available from: 2022-06-27 Created: 2022-06-27 Last updated: 2024-04-29Bibliographically approved
2. Ablegality: a primer on systems theory as a critical legal framework
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ablegality: a primer on systems theory as a critical legal framework
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This article argues for a critique of political economy supported by Niklas Luhmann's systems theory. Luhmann’s work has significant synergies with mainstream law and economics, converging towards the possibility of ignoring the harm caused by unequal exchanges. Assuming that the law, at least in principle, rejects expropriation, the article demonstrates that accumulation in the market economy is made possible precisely through the selective recognition of instances where the expropriatory claim of property is present. The novel concept of "ablegality" – where legality is temporarily absent rather than negated – provides a model for understanding the process of selective recognition. It contributes to restoring and engaging with normative tensions internal to the law, even though they are systemically invisible, positioning systems theory as a framework for dialectical critique.

Keywords
Ablegality; systems theory; expropriation; exploitation; contingency
National Category
Law (excluding Law and Society) Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Legal Science; Law and Economics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-228783 (URN)
Available from: 2024-04-29 Created: 2024-04-29 Last updated: 2024-04-29
3. The legal tragedy of exploitation: irresponsibility and the complicity of law
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The legal tragedy of exploitation: irresponsibility and the complicity of law
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This article argues that labor litigation helps to sustain, rather than interrupt, the process of worker exploitation. Against the backdrop of legal claims raised by Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders in the UK, it focuses on the relevance of undue exploitation – i.e. exploitation beyond legal limits – as a mechanism that leverages capital accumulation, which simultaneously hedges against the liability that this mode of exploitation imposes. Even though it is reasonably safe to assume that this outcome is socially undesirable and should be curtailed by law, it will be shown that the legal framework of labor litigation is characterized by two complementary effects which end up reinforcing exploitation through the embeddedness of irresponsibility. First, it disassembles the reciprocity between exploitation and liability to allow for an extraordinary profit flow in favor of the exploiter. Second, it normalizes any residual profits derived from exploitation that persist beyond the rendering of a court award. These effects thematize exploitation as a gamble that will generally pay off, all the while embedding its deleterious social effects at a level that is no longer retrievable by law.

Keywords
exploitation; labor litigation; courts; contingency; irresponsibility
National Category
Law (excluding Law and Society)
Research subject
Legal Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-228784 (URN)
Note

Under peer review (Journal of Law and Political Economy)

Available from: 2024-04-29 Created: 2024-04-29 Last updated: 2024-04-29

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Pinheiro Astone, Daniel Augusto

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