Vivek Maru | Foreign Policy, 2017 | Article
Most governments don’t invest a single dollar into the work of community paralegals like the ones described in the talk. Why? What would it take to make justice a reality for everyone? In this essay in Foreign Policy, I offer four principles for overcoming the challenge of delivering legal empowerment at scale.
Industrial development — mines, factories, power plants, plantations — can poison our bodies and our planet. This guide shows, in practical, simple terms, how paralegals and communities can use law to address those harms. The guide is based on the work of a team of paralegals in India, who have supported communities to take on more than 150 violations of environmental regulation. The guide includes vivid case stories and beautiful photographs of paralegals in action.
Jennifer Gordon | Belknap Press, 2007 | Book
This book describes how undocumented immigrants on Long Island in the United States came together to demand just treatment in their workplaces — restaurants, construction sites, and private homes where they cooked and cleaned. The author Jennifer Gordon reflects on how the group she founded, The Workplace Project, combined legal services to solve specific cases with community organizing to build courage and power within a population that has been historically powerless. This idea of combining law and organizing animates much of the global legal empowerment movement.
Jürgen Habermas | The MIT Press, 1998 | Book
This book by social theorist Jürgen Habermas is about the relationship between law and democracy. In the modern world, complex systems like the market economy and state bureaucracies take on logics of their own. Democracy should be the space in which people can deliberate as equals about what purposes those systems should serve. And law should be the means by which we translate the ideas that grow out of democratic deliberation (norms) into reality (facts). This deliberative vision of the law inspires me. The book is dense but revelatory.
Vivek Maru | Wired, 2017 | Article
The environmental movement has largely relied on top-down regulation and grand bargains like the Paris Agreement. In this essay in Wired UK, I argue that we should simultaneously focus on bottom-up environmentalism, by supporting the people who have the most to lose. The essay includes a story of paralegals and communities negotiating with a large scale oil palm plantation in Sierra Leone.
Edited by Vivek Maru and Varun Gauri | Cambridge University Press, 2018 | Book
Community paralegals date back to 1950s South Africa and are active today in many countries, but they’ve largely been ignored by researchers. This is the first book on the subject.
Each chapter is rich with accounts of paralegals helping communities to take on injustice, from domestic violence to unlawful mining to denial of wages. From these stories emerges evidence of what works and how.
My co-authors and I explore questions like:
· How have community paralegals adapted to and influenced their changing political contexts?
· How do paralegals overcome steep imbalances of power?
· What has been the relationship between paralegals and social movements?
The stories in this book give me hope. I think they may do the same for you.