Portrait of Professor Donatella Alessandrini

Professor Donatella Alessandrini

Professor of Law
co-director of the Social Critiques of Law (SoCriL) research group
co-Director of Graduate Studies (Research)
Deputy-Head of KLS

About

Donatella Alessandrini has completed her PhD at Birkbeck, University of London, in 2007. Her earlier work has focused on the political economy of ‘development’ in multilateral trading relations, with an emphasis on the World Trade Organisation (WTO). She is currently working on two projects. The first aims to provide a sustained analysis of the WTO’s contribution to the proliferation of global value chains, and to the unequal distribution of the economic value produced along these chains. It also aims to develop a conceptual framework that can adequately embrace productive and reproductive activities of workers involved in value chain trade. The second project is concerned with exploring contemporary approaches to conceptual and normative understandings of the production of value in today’s financialised economies, and with imagining the possibility of institutional arrangements able to affect current value-making processes.  

Research interests

Donatella’s research lies at the intersection of law and political economy, with a particular interest in development studies, critical trade and development literature, feminist political economy and political theory. Her earlier work has focused on the political economy of ‘development’ in multilateral trading relations, with an emphasis on the World Trade Organisation. She is currently working on two projects. With Suhraiya Jivraj, she is looking at the importance that Well Being and Happiness (WBH) initiatives have acquired in intern/national policy making, especially since the 2008 economic crisis; and she has a particular interest in interrogating the normative force and appeal that is increasingly ascribed to WBH discourse in development thinking and policies. The second project is concerned with exploring contemporary approaches to conceptual and normative understandings of the production of value in today’s financialised economies, and with imagining the possibility of institutional arrangements able to affect current value-making processes. For more information on her current work on value, click here.

Research Interests:
Law and Political Economy; Development Studies, International Trade Theory and Practice, Critical and Feminist Political Economy

Research AreasCritical Commercial Law and Business Law and Regulation; Law Politics and Culture; Law and Political EconomyGender and Sexuality

Teaching

Postgraduate

Donatella teaches in the field of WTO law and Practice  

Supervision

Donatella is happy to supervise research projects on Trade and Development, Internationla Economic Law, Financial Capitalism, post-Fordism and Feminist Political Economy.

Professional

Editorial Work

Professional Societies

  • International Association of Feminist Economics
  • Society of International Economic Law
  • Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics  

Publications

Article

  • Alessandrini, D. (2018). Of Value, Measurement and Social Reproduction. Griffith Law Review.
  • Alessandrini, D. and Hunter, R. (2017). Editorial: Why We Still Oppose Gold and Also Oppose Hybrid Open Access. feminists at law [Online]. Available at: http://journals.kent.ac.uk/index.php/feministsatlaw/article/view/350/964.
  • Alessandrini, D. and Jivraj, S. (2017). Conceptualising the Economy-Society Nexus in Well-Being and Happiness Initiatives: Gross National Happiness in Business in Bhutan and Social Impact Bonds in the United Kingdom. International Critical Thought [Online] 7:526-546. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/21598282.2017.1357482.
    This article explores how well-being and happiness (WBH) is conceptualised in different geographical contexts, and how this understanding is able to affect policymaking and engender socio-economic and legal change. Whilst WBH initiatives seemingly stem from a critique of gross domestic product as a measure of societal “progress,” we show how, in itself, such critique cannot be the basis for understanding WBH as a unitary transnational phenomenon that offers a radical re-thinking of the relationship between economy and society. By focusing on two concrete instances and specific sites, that of the Social Impact Bond in the United Kingdom and the “Gross National Happiness in Business” project in Bhutan, we argue that individual contexts and initiatives must be closely studied, and suggest that conflations between different well-being agendas need to be avoided to pay closer attention to the ways in which well-being can be co-opted or fashioned through policymaking and government initiatives.
  • Alessandrini, D., Jivraj, S. and Zokaityte, A. (2015). Exploring Well-Being and Gross National Happiness in Sustainable Development Policy Making. Indian Journal of International Economic Law [Online] 7:52-88. Available at: https://www.nls.ac.in/resources/ijiel2015.pdf.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2013). A Social Provisioning Employer of Last Resort: Post-Keynesianism Meets Feminist Economics. World Review of Political Economy [Online] 4:230-254. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.13169/worlrevipoliecon.4.2.0230.
    This article proposes a collaboration between post-Keynesians and feminist economists with regard to macroeconomic policies aimed at the socialization of investment, in particular the proposal for the government to act at once as the Employer of Last Resort and as a social provider. This is particularly important in the UK because the coalition government's Spending Review and Plan for Growth have dismantled public services and welfare benefits while emphasizing a narrow range of productive activities. This strategy threatens to widen the inequality that has led to low levels of demand and reliance by low- and middle-income households on unsustainable borrowing in order to maintain living standards. The article therefore contributes to current debates about alternative macroeconomic policies: it argues that the current emphasis on austerity needs to be replaced by a social provisioning approach that requires us to first pose the question of what the economy should be for.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2013). Multilateral Trade in a time of Crisis. International Law Annual [Online] 2013:38-42. Available at: http://www.spilmumbai.com/uploads/article/pdf/multilateral-trade-in-a-time-of-crisis-18.pdf.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2013). WTO at a Crossroads: the Crisis of Multilateral Trade and the Political Economy of the Flexibility Debate. Trade Law and Development 5.
    This article has a two-fold purpose: first, to problematize the WTO’s official response to the crisis, particularly its insistence on trade liberalisation as the universally desirable means for stimulating growth; secondly, to reflect on the political economic assumptions underlying calls for greater flexibility to be built in the WTO system. Although the article considers the flexibility debate to be of crucial importance in thinking about the future of the multilateral trading system, it evaluates the stakes in arguing for policy autonomy or ‘developmental legal capacity’ in the context of international trade relations. In this respect, it shows that flexibility arguments share an understanding of multilateral trade relations as governed by competition. While recognising that the role of competition, as opposed to comparative advantage, is important to challenge the assumption about the universal beneficial role of trade liberalisation, the argument this article makes is that accepting competition as the sole or prevalent modality informing multilateral trade relations is problematic from both a normative and a positive perspective. By reflecting on the limitations of an approach that accepts the need ‘to prosper in conditions of global competition’ as its necessary starting point, this article emphasizes the importance of rethinking international trade relations, particularly under conditions of global recession characterised by high levels of inequality.
  • Hunter, R., Alessandrini, D. and Williams, T. (2012). Why We Oppose Gold Open Access. feminists@law [Online]. Available at: http://journals.kent.ac.uk/index.php/feministsatlaw/issue/view/6.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2012). Labour, Value and Precariety in the Age of Austerity: Introduction to the Lecture Series. feminists@law.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2012). Immaterial Labour and Alternative Valorisation Processes in Italian Feminist Debates: (re)exploring the 'commons' of re-production. Feminists@Law [Online] 1:1-28. Available at: http://journals.kent.ac.uk/index.php/feministsatlaw/article/view/32.
    This article takes its cue from Desai’s critique of the new communists of the commons, particularly her claim that their project is built upon a series of misunderstandings about the dynamics of capital accumulation, the production of value in post-Fordism and the concept of the ‘commons’ itself. Focusing on earlier explorations by Italian feminists of the dynamic interaction between labour and value, the contribution this article makes to the commons debate is three-fold: first, it argues that the most interesting insights emerging from immaterial/cognitive/affective labour theories on which Italian post-workerists rely to put forward a renewed understanding of the commons derive from this feminist body of work. Secondly it shows how, despite being relied upon, the radical potential of this work has been limited by positing a qualitative shift to post-Fordist production that pays little attention to the important connections between labour and value that make up our common world. Finally, the article focuses exactly on this potential, that is, the challenge to capitalist value through the instantiation of other processes of valorisation, in light of the current attack on social reproduction.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2011). Regulating Financial Derivatives? Risks, contested Values and Uncertain Futures. Social and Legal Studies [Online] 20:1-22. Available at: http://journals2.scholarsportal.info/details.xqy?uri=/09646639/v20i0004/441_rfdrcvauf.xml.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2010). GMOs and the Crisis of Objectivity: Nature, Science and the Challenge of Uncertainty. Social and Legal Studies [Online] 19:3-23. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0964663909346195.
    This article contributes to the current debate on the meaning and regulation of biotechnology by focusing on the role that the concepts of nature and sound science play in framing struggles against agricultural biotechnology in India. It contends that the political work of these concepts consists of limiting democratic deliberation by neatly separating facts from values and scientific certainty from politics. In particular, it aims to show that both the invocation of nature and reliance on sound science are counterproductive for the more interesting challenges opponents are already articulating outside the boundaries drawn by the nature/society, science/politics and facts/ values distinctions. Indeed, the political significance of the collective experimentations going on in India (as elsewhere) is that they signal a shift from a risk mentality, centred on ‘hard facts’ supposed to settle the debate, to novel approaches to uncertainty that recognize the increasing controversies surrounding GMOs. These approaches, it is argued, provide a more interesting space for thinking about the uncertainty surrounding biotechnological crops and the relations we (might) share with them.
  • Alessandrini, D. and Leon, I. (2010). Latin America and the Trans/national Debate: A Conversation Piece. Globalizations [Online] 8:179-195. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14747731.2010.493018.
    This paper is the result of a conversation, started in 2008, about the significance of the struggles for gender and sexual justice taking place in Latin America and more broadly of the challenges global justice and solidarity movements (GJ&SM) are articulating at various national and international levels. Two themes are explored throughout: the extent to which the current Latin American experiments with diversity, plurality, connectivity and mutuality, starting with the ‘plural concept of gender and sexuality’, challenge existing divides between gender, sexual, social and economic justice and the extent to which they simultaneously question the North/South divide. We also reflect on the problems and challenges that such approaches might present or encounter.

    Este documento es el resultado de una conversación iniciada en el 2008, sobre la importancia de las luchas por la justicia de género y sexualidad, realizadas en Latinoamérica y en términos más amplios, el desafío de la justicia global y los movimientos de solidaridad (GJ&SM, por sus siglas en inglés) articulándolos en los diferentes niveles tanto nacionales como internacionales. Se han explorado dos temas: Por un lado, la medida en que los experimentos actuales latinoamericanos con la diversidad, pluralidad, conectividad y reciprocidad, comenzando con el ‘concepto plural del género y la sexualidad’, desafían a las divisiones existentes entre la justicia de género, social y económica, y por otro lado, el grado en que estos experimentos cuestionan simultáneamente la división norte/sur. También reflexionamos sobre los problemas y desafíos que tales enfoques pueden presentar o enfrentar.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2009). Making the WTO ‘more supportive of development’? The Doha Round and the Political rationality of the WTO’s Development Mission. Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal:2-17.
    This article is concerned with the Doha ‘Development’ Round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Its historic significance seems to lie in the fact that the international community has undertaken the unprecedented effort to deliver the long-standing development promise of the multilateral trade regime. Thus, despite its past failures, the claim is that its successful conclusion is a ‘political must’ for development. Contrary to this assumption, the paper argues that the ‘failure’ and ‘promise’ of development that the multilateral trade regime articulates are inherent in the ‘science of development’ established at the end of the colonial era. In particular, the paper claims that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the WTO have contributed to the creation, consolidation and transformation of a development apparatus that links forms of knowledge about the so—called Third World with forms of power and intervention. By emphasising the permanence of the ‘civilising mission’ within the WTO’s Doha agenda, it makes the case for challenges to be made not only to its current market-access mindset but also to the three normative assumptions that have provided the ‘ science of development’ with its political rationality.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2005). Transnational Corporations and the Doctrine of Comparative Advantage: A Critique of Free Trade Normative Assumptions. International Trade Law and Regulations Journal 11:14-23.
    Examines the free trade doctrine and considers the arguments which challenge the intellectual validity of free trade by examining its normative assumptions. Examines the major economic arguments against free trade and the market distortion argument put forward by Jagdish Bhagwati. Argues that free trade theory has overlooked the impact of events that have taken place after its formulation and which have affected its major assumptions, in particular, the ascendancy of transnational corporations and the influesnce they export on political and economic processes.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2005). WTO and Current Trade Debate: An Enquiry into the Intellectual Origins of Free Trade Thought. International Trade Law and Regulations Journal 11:53-60.
    Examines the intellectual origins of the free trade doctrine, looking at the extent to which the economic analysis of free trade has excluded other forms of analysis. Considers the classical theory of free trade put forward by Alan Smith and analysis. Considers the classical theory of free trade put forward by Adam Smith and David Ricardo and the objections raised to free trade during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, based on arguments relating to tariffs, emerging industries, unemployment, wage differentials and market distortion.

Book

  • Alessandrini, D. (2016). Value Making in International Economic Law and Regulation. [Online]. Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138936744.
    This book examines the contemporary production of economic value in today’s financial economies. Much of the regulatory response to the global financial crisis has been based on the assumption that curbing the speculative ‘excesses’ of the financial sphere is a necessary and sufficient condition for restoring a healthy economic system, endowed with real values, as distinct from those produced by financial markets. How, though, can the ‘intrinsic’ value of goods and services produced in the sphere of the so-called real economy be disentangled from the ‘artificial’ value engineered within the financial sphere?

    Examining current projects of international legal regulation, this book questions the regulation of the financial sphere insofar as its excesses are juxtaposed to some notion of economic normality. Given the problem of neatly distinguishing these domains – and so, more generally, between economy and society – it considers the limits of our current conceptualization of value production and measurement, with specific reference to arrangements in the areas of finance, trade and labour. Drawing on a range of innovative work in the social sciences, it further asks: what alternative arrangements might be able to affect, and indeed alter, the value-making processes that underlie our current international regulatory framework?
  • Alessandrini, D. (2010). Developing Countries and the Multilateral Trade Regime: The Failure and Promise of the WTO's Development Mission. Hart.
    This book explores the way in which 'development' has functioned within the multilateral trade regime since de-colonisation. In particular, it investigates the shift from early approaches to development under the GATT to current approaches to development under the WTO. It argues that a focus on the creation and transformation of a scientific apparatus that links forms of knowledge about the so-called Third World with forms of power and intervention is crucial for understanding the six decades long development enterprise of both the GATT and the WTO. The book is both topical and necessary given the emphasis on the current round of negotiations of the WTO. The Doha 'Development' Round has been premised on two assumptions. Firstly, that the international community has undertaken an unprecedented effort to address the imbalances of the multilateral trading regime with respect to the position of its developing country members. Secondly, that its successful conclusion represents an historic imperative and a political necessity for developing countries. Through a sustained analysis of the interaction between development thinking and trade practices, the book questions both assumptions by showing how development has always occupied a central position within the multilateral trading regime. Thus, rather than asking the question of what needs to be done in order to achieve 'development', the book examines the way in which development has operated and still operates to produce important, and often unacknowledged, power relations.

Book section

  • Alessandrini, D. (2014). Financial Derivatives and the Challenge of Performation: Where Contingency Meets Contestability. in: Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. eds. Knowledge, Technology and Law: at the Intersection of Socio-Legal and Science and Technology Studies. Routledge.
  • Alessandrini, D. (2011). The World Trade Organisation and Development: Victory of Rational Choice? in: Johnson, F., Pahuja, S. and Joyce, R. eds. Events: The Force of International Law. UK: Routledge Cavendish, pp. 207-220.