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American Law in the Age of Hypercapitalism

American Law in the Age of Hypercapitalism: The Worker, the Family, and the State

Ruth Colker
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    American Law in the Age of Hypercapitalism
    Book Description:

    Since the fall of communism, laissez-faire capitalism has experienced renewed popularity. Flush with victory, the United States has embraced a particularly narrow and single-minded definition of capitalism and aggressively exported it worldwide. The defining trait of this brand of capitalism is an unwavering reverence for the icons of the market. Although promoted as a laissez-faire form of capitalism, it actually reflects the very evils of selfishness and greed by entrepreneurs that concerned Adam Smith. Capitalism, however, can thrive without an extreme emphasis on efficiency and personal autonomy. Americans often forget that theirs is a rather peculiar form of capitalism, that other Western nations successfully maintain capitalistic systems that are fundamentally more balanced and nuanced in their effect on society. The unnecessarily inhumane aspects of American capitalism become apparent when compared to Canadian and Western European societies, with their more generous policies regarding affirmative action, accommodation for disabled persons, and family and medical leave for pregnant woman and their partners. In American Law in the Age of Hypercapitalism, Ruth Colker examines how American law purports to reflect--and actively promotes--a laissez-faire capitalism that disproportionately benefits the entrepreneurial class. Colker proposes that the quality of American life depends also on fairness and equality rather than simply the single-minded and formulaic pursuit of efficiency and utility.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-9017-5
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-26)

    Isabelle Dumont, a legal immigrant to the United States from Haiti, works for the Bayer family. In return for taking care of their children while they are at work each day (from at least 8 A.M. until 6 P.M.), she is paid $250 per week. When the family goes on vacation, she has her own (unpaid) vacation. Because she is not a U.S. citizen, Isabelle is not eligible for Medicaid, and she cannot afford private health insurance on her modest wages. Isabelle brings her own daughter, Medina, to work with her each day and finds it exhausting to juggle the...

    (pp. 27-61)

    In the eighteenth century, upper-class Boston families could send their nearly illiterate children to Harvard University.¹ Until the 1920s, admission to elite institutions often was restricted to those males who could afford to pay the tuition and had taken courses generally only available in private schools such as Latin.² Today, money continues to buy privilege in the United States. Despite the extent of economic privilege in American society, we continue to cling to the myth of equal opportunity, viewing the notion of economic privilege “as a radical, dangerous idea, or an idiosyncratic throwback to the past, conjuring up countries with...

    (pp. 62-99)

    Wall Street Journalcolumnist James Bovard ridiculed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by suggesting that claustrophobia and cocaine addiction are covered disabilities, invoking reasonable accommodation protection.¹ He tells a story of a motorist attempting to use claustrophobia as a defense for a seatbelt violation but fails to mention that the motorist’s case was dismissed and brought strong negative commentary from the court.² Similarly, Bovard reports that a high school guidance counselor used the ADA to challenge his cocainerelated discharge, neglecting to mention that the state court action³ did not (and could not) include an ADA claim, because the ADA...

    (pp. 100-154)

    Kimberly Hern Troupe was employed as a saleswoman in the women’s accessories department at Lord & Taylor.¹ She experienced extreme nausea while pregnant and frequently reported to work late or had to leave early. Although her employment record had been perfect before she became pregnant, she was fired the day before her maternity leave was to commence. Troupe brought suit alleging that her employer fired her because of her pregnancy and would have tolerated a similar illness if experienced by a male employee. Her lawsuit was unsuccessful, with the court blaming Troupe for her nausea, seemingly buying the stereotype that nausea...

    (pp. 155-181)

    When Perry Watkins, an African American gay man, was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1967 during the Vietnam conflict, he had no idea that he would eventually have to bring a lawsuit to retain a position in the armed forces.¹ Despite indicating on his preinduction physical form that he had “homosexual tendencies,” he was found qualified for admission and inducted into the armed forces. A year after entering the army, Watkins sought discharge by again stating that he had “homosexual tendencies” and had even committed “sodomy” with other members of the military. After a brief investigation, the army found...

    (pp. 182-206)

    In the late 1980s, Michael Anthony Bullard worked for Bigelow Holding Company, a rental company in the state of Nevada.¹ Bullard believed that the company had a rental policy of discriminating against African Americans. On one occasion, he feared that the company was planning to physically assault two black men who had entered the property in order to get them out. When his coemployee, Carol Swenson, radioed his supervisor, Donna Dollman, about the presence of the black men on the property, Bullard said to Swenson, “Blacks have rights, too.” After Swenson reported that remark to Dollman, Dollman entered the office...

    (pp. 207-220)

    Consider these two fictional accounts, one from our past and one that imagines our future:

    Isabelle’s daughter, Medina, attended the local college whose in-state tuition she could afford to pay. Eventually she enrolled in law school and graduated with honors. She decided to seek a clerkship so that she could someday enter the legal academy. Hearing that there was an opening in the local state court judge’s chambers, she applied for a job. Aware that political connections often were important to securing a state clerk courtship (since state court judges are elected), she nonetheless hoped she would have a decent...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 221-244)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 245-250)
    (pp. 251-252)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-253)