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Interest Convergence Versus Power Preservation: Examining the Tension Between Institutional and Individual Interest Convergences

Mon, April 20, 4:05 to 5:35pm, Virtual Room


In the application of Critical Race Theory, Carbado and Gulati (2003) have explored the tension between individual versus institutional, or group, interests. In their examination of the perceived tensions between the discipline of law and economics and CRT, Carbado and Gulati underscore the importance of localizing analyses and critiques not just at a personal/individual level but also at a structural/institutional level. They argue that critical race structural/institutional critiques “help to elucidate the complex ways in which race operates…” (Carbado & Gulati, 2003, p. 1765). The purpose of this paper is to apply Carbado and Gulati’s analysis to the examination of interest convergence in the “post-racial” policy era.

Building on Bell’s work, as well as the adaptations to Bell’s original doctrine (Dudziak (1988; 2000; Guinier, 2004; Carbado & Gulati, 2003), I introduce the concept of the “power preservation principle” as a contemporary outgrowth of Bell’s theory. The power preservation principle (PPP) posits that whereas institutionally led interest convergences have historically facilitated the advancement of “racial remedies,” under the guise of societal interests, today’s white backlash exposes new realities 40 years after Bell’s thesis was introduced. In the twenty-first century, in the wake of an increasingly multicultural nation state where access to fountains of power, such as selective postsecondary institutions, are ever more competitive and constricted, the individual right to accessing such purveyors of power is more outwardly defended and contested by its historically white clientele. Through the power preservation principle individual interests and beliefs of perceived entitlement rights supersede institutional or societal pursuits; such actions lead to challenging the continuance of race-conscious social and educational policy.