Seminar Explores Private Law and Public Justice

Graphic: 2022 Private Law Seminar, Private Orderings and Public Justice, Tuesdays 12:10-2:00 p.m.

This year’s Seminar in Private Law will examine private law’s relationship with public justice. Titled “Private Orderings and Public Justice,” the series will explore how private law and the private arrangements that it enables and facilitates — through contracts, property rights, corporate law, and other means — may promote or hamper public justice goals. Participants will question the limits of private ordering and reflect critically on the interaction between private and public institutions more broadly. 

The seminar is a collaboration of the Yale Law School Center for Private Law and NYU School of Law’s Contract Theory and Law Colloquium. Guido Calabresi Professor of Law Daniel Markovits ’00, also the Center for Private Law’s Director, and Visiting Professor of Law Richard Brooks organized the event. As in past years, the seminar convenes speakers from academia and practice to present papers organized around a common theme that crosses disciplinary and doctrinal boundaries.

“American legal thought has in recent decades seen an outpouring of creative and profound work that investigates the ways in which nominally private arrangements — between consumers and retailers, for example, or between workers and employers — are deeply connected to some of the age’s central questions of public justice, including economic inequality and political subordination,” Markovits said. “This year’s seminar is part of the Center for Private Law’s ongoing efforts to drive this scholarly tradition forwards.”

Over 11 weeks, the seminar will showcase guest speakers from the fields of law, economics, sociology, history, and philosophy. Speakers include both champions and critics of private law, offering theoretical and empirical perspectives. 

The seminar begins on Feb. 1, 2022 with a conversation between economist Thomas Piketty and political theorist Danielle Allen titled, “A Brief History of Equality,” in which they will discuss themes from Piketty’s forthcoming book A Brief History of Equality. Piketty, Professor at the Paris School of Economics, is the author of Capital in the 21st Century and Capital and Ideology. Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She is widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America.

Presenters throughout February include Gabriella Blum and John Goldberg on “the unable or unwilling doctrine,” Ariel Rubinstein on markets without prices, and Christopher Kutz and Saskia Sassen on the privatization of public functions.

The seminar continues in March with Rebecca J. Scott and Cynthia Estlund ’83 on labor, slavery, and the contemporary workplace; Lisa Bernstein and Oliver Hart presenting “Inside and Outside the Firm,” followed by Katharina Pistor with “The Law(s) of Capitalism.” 

In April, Gordon Bradford Tweedy Professor Emeritus of Law and Organization Carol M. Rose and Cristina Bicchieri will discuss social norms, customs, and private law, followed by Marietta Auer, with “Private Law: Market Ordering or Creator of Injustice?,” and Neil Walker and Jeremy Waldron on property and sovereignty. The series concludes with Jeff McMahan, who will present “Wrongful Life.”

The Yale Law School Center for Private Law promotes teaching and research in contracts (including commercial law, corporate finance, bankruptcy, and arbitration), property (including intellectual property), and torts at Yale Law School and in the broader legal community. The Center supports scholars, students, and practicing lawyers in all these areas and seeks, especially, to sponsor serious and sustained intellectual engagements among groups who share interests but do not often interact.