A Multiplicity of Interests

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This essay invites a re-thinking of Derrick Bell’s theory of interest convergence.  It argues that as often interpreted, interest convergence appears to share with law and economics proponents a narrow view of human nature in which people are presumed to be “rational actors” devoted solely to achieving their material self-interest.  I argue that this view of human nature is too limited to explain fully people’s behavior and motives.  While self-interest is clearly an important catalyst to action, history suggests that people can also be motivated by altruism, ideals, and a broader sense of community.  Most importantly, interest theory may actually be an impediment to political progress because it can be seen as justifying a self-interested, individualistic politics, rather than inviting people to be their best selves.

Professor Godsil is the co-founder and research director for the American Values Institute, a national consortium of social scientists, advocates, and law professors focusing on the role of implicit bias in law and policy.  She is currently pursuing research projects to determine differential empathy levels toward young men and police officers, media messages to address racialized moments, and the link between stereotype threat and the success of students of color in law.  Professor Godsil’s recent publications include Implicit Bias in the Courtroom (UCLA Law Review, forthcoming) co-authored with Jerry Kang et al.; Implicit Bias in Environmental Decision Making in Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law (Oxford University Press, 2012), and Implicit Bias Insights as Preconditions to Structural Change, co-authored with john powell.  She has written several amicus briefs in cases involving civil rights, including on behalf of the National Parent Teacher Association in the Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District litigation at the Supreme Court.  She is also the co-editor of Awakening from the Dream: Civil Rights Under Siege and the New Struggle for Equal Justice (Carolina Academic Press, 2005).