The PALcast

The PALcast is the podcast of the Project on Autocratic Legalism (PAL).

The Podcast shares some of the conceptual debates behind, and research findings stemming from our project.

Our episodes are released every month or two. PALcast is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and hosted by Fabio de Sa e Silva. 

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Michael McCann on dual legal states and the political economy of autocratic legalism

Fabio talks to Swethaa Ballakrishnen, a law professor at UCI with training in sociology and law. Swethaa studies legal globalization and how law and legal institutions create, sustain, and counter different kinds of socio-economic inequalities, drawing from fieldwork in multiple sites. But the interview focuses mostly on the book Swethaa edited with Sara Dezalay, called "Invisible Institutionalisms", which questions the process by which academics give meaning to global legal development and how this sometimes reifies categories and hierarchies. This is a timely conversation for a project like PAL that is set off to produce "global collaborative research" involving scholars in both the "North" and the "South".

Swethaa Ballakrishnen on what it means to do global sociolegal studies

Fabio talks to Swethaa Ballakrishnen, a law professor at UCI with training in sociology and law. Swethaa studies legal globalization and how law and legal institutions create, sustain, and counter different kinds of socio-economic inequalities, drawing from fieldwork in multiple sites. But the interview focuses mostly on the book Swethaa edited with Sara Dezalay, called "Invisible Institutionalisms", which questions the process by which academics give meaning to global legal development and how this sometimes reifies categories and hierarchies. This is a timely conversation for a project like PAL that is set off to produce "global collaborative research" involving scholars in both the "North" and the "South".

Tom Ginsburg on democratic erosion through law, US non-exceptionalism, and legal design

Fabio talks to Tom Ginsburg, a professor of international law and political science at the University of Chicago and the author of "How to save a Constitutional democracy" (with Aziz Huq) and the brand-new "Democracies and International Law". Fabio and Tom discuss how modern autocrats use law to consolidate power, how the US has proven vulnerable to democratic erosion through law, and whether improvements in legal design (domestically or internationally) may help slow or stop these processes.

Kim Lane Scheppele on what autocratic legalism is and how we can resist autocrats

Fabio talks to Kim Lane Scheppele, a Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Princeton University. Kim has a very special place in the PAL project. She was the scholar who popularized the term “autocratic legalism” in law and society studies and, back in 2019, she gave a powerful speech at the annual meeting of the Law and Society Association, urging scholars to study how law had become part of the toolkit of autocrats. PAL was born that day, in response to her call. Fabio and Kim discussed what autocratic legalism is, how it may differ from populism, and how the practices of legalist autocrats can be resisted and stopped.

Bojan Bugaric on varieties of populism and their differential impacts on law and democracy

Fabio talks to Bojan Bugarič, a public law professor at the University of Sheffield Law School, in the UK. Mark Tushnet, Bojan just launched a book entitled “Power to the People: Constitutionalism in the Age of Populism”. Fabio and Bojan discuss different kinds of populism, how they may affect law and democracy, and why it is worth investigating not only the consequences but also the causes of what Bojan calls “authoritarian populism.”

Helena Alviar on the entanglements between autocratic power, law, gender, and economics

Fabio talks to Helena Alviar, a law professor at Sciences-Po law school, in France, after a prolific career in Colombia. Helena wrote many pieces that are being read in the PAL project, such as a study on the “legal architecture of populisms” and one on “neoliberal economics as authoritarianism”. Fabio and Helena discussed these research findings, as well as the epistemology she adopts in her studies, grounded in Critical Legal Studies and Law and Development. They end the conversation with a great exchange on gender and autocratization, a theme that we hope will be brought closer to the center of the PAL project.

Anthony Pereira on how Latin American dictatorships used the law against dissidents

Fabio talks to Anthony Pereira, a political scientist who teaches at the King’s College, in London. Pereira is the author of Political (In)justice, a book on how Latin American dictatorships used the law to repress political dissidents, which he then labeled authoritarian legality. Fabio and Pereira discussed how these lessons from the past could be used in efforts to understand present-day autocratic legalism and what Brazilianists got wrong about Brazil.

Rick Abel on the US war on terror, lawyers, and the fate of political liberalism in critical times

Fabio talks to Rick Abel, an Emeritus Law Professor at UCLA. Rick recently published two books on the United States war on terror, which researchers at the PAL project have found particularly useful. The reason is, in these books, Rick shows how a liberal legal order can quickly be turned into an illiberal one, to fight those who are framed as “enemies of the nation”. In the episode, Fabio and Rick discuss what these processes involve and what they tell us about the ability that law and lawyers have, or lack, to protect or to undermine political liberalism.

Oscar Vilhena on Brazil, Bolsonaro, and the PAL project

Fabio talks to Oscar Vilhena, a lawyer and political scientist who is the Dean of the FGV Law School in São Paulo, Brazil, which is the main basis for the Brazilian part of the PAL project. This conversation was intended to give readers a hint of what putting PAL research together has been like, but it was inevitable for Fabio and Oscar to engage in a deeper conversation about Brazil and Bolsonaro, at a time when COVID-19 hits their country very hard.

Javier Corrales on Chavez, Trump, and the concept of autocratic legalism

Fabio talks to Javier Corrales, a political science professor at Amherst College. Corrales coined the term autocratic legalism to account for Venezuela’s authoritarian turn in the late 20th century. In the episode, Fabio and Corrales unpack this concept and discuss other issues, including the 2020 US elections and how the United States can deal with the autocratic legacy from the Trump presidency.