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Dana Zuk
S.J.D. Candidate

dzukreifer at


Splintering of the American Middle Class

Books and articles decrying the decline of the American middle class abound, complemented by extensive work in labor economics about labor polarization and the hollowing out of middle-class jobs. In my dissertation, I take this background as fact, and use a law and political economy (LPE) framework to understand the dynamics that led to this decline. Rather than focusing directly on the legal drivers of middle class precarity, low wages and poor prospects, I focus on aspects of law that structurally weakened the middle class as a political force able to bring its economic interests to bear in the face of sustained assault by business and finance. Specifically, I examine the legal structures that systematically divide the American middle class into subgroups with competing economic interests, notably around questions of property ownership, credit regulation, workers’ rights, and consumerism.

In my dissertation I examine concrete case-studies to understand how different legal regimes created divisive fissures within the middle class around economic interests, leading to the formation of conflicting subgroups. While these divisions increased subgroups’ relative bargaining power in internal class battles, they weakened them collectively in the overall class struggle. This undermining of subgroups’ ability to form broad coalitions to advance collective class interests is particularly significant, since such coalitions are the agents of social and economic structural transformation. By identifying “strategic” moments where the legal system has caused fissures in the middle class, the dissertation aims to gain a better understanding of the relationship between conflicts of economic interests within this class and the current market structure.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Law and Political Economy with Professor Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School, Principal Faculty Supervisor
  • History of Labor Law and History of the American Labor Movement with Professor Laura Weinrib, Harvard Law School
  • Consumer Finance with Professor Oren Bar-Gill, Harvard Law School

Additional Research Interests

  • Labor Law
  • Law & Class Struggle
  • Legal History
  • Legal and Political Theory
  • Legal Foundations of Capitalism


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate, 2023-Present
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. Program, 2022-2023 (requirements fulfilled, degree waived)
  • Tel Aviv University Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities, M.A. (Philosophy) Candidate, 2021-Present
  • Tel Aviv University Buchmann Faculty of Law, LL.B., Magna Cum Laude, 2012-2016
  • Tel Aviv University Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities, B.A. (Philosophy), Magna Cum Laude, 2012-2016

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Harvard Law School, 2024-2025, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor

Additional Information

  • Languages: English (fluent), Hebrew (native)
  • Harvard Law School Award for Best Papers in Law and Political Economy, 2022-2023

Last Updated: July 25th, 2024