Post-Racial Hydraulics: The Hidden Dangers of the Universal Turn

47 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2015 Last revised: 28 Apr 2015

See all articles by Zev J. Eigen

Zev J. Eigen

Syndio Solutions

Camille Gear Rich

USC Gould School of Law

Charlotte Alexander

Georgia State University – Institute for Insight; Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: March 5, 2015


In recent years, antidiscrimination scholars have focused on the productive possibilities of the “universal turn,” a strategy that calls on attorneys to convert particularist claims, like race discrimination claims, into broader universalist claims that secure basic dignity, liberty, and fairness rights for all. Scholars have urged litigators to employ universalist strategies in constitutional and voting rights cases, as well as in employment litigation. Thus far, however, arguments made in favor of universalism have been largely abstract and theoretical and therefore have failed to fully consider the second order effects of universalist strategies on the ground. In this article we challenge the prevailing arguments in favor of universalism by exploring the market consequences as lawyers shift from particularist Title VII race discrimination claims to universalist Fair Labor Standards Act claims. Derived from a preliminary review of case filing statistics and qualitative data from a purposeful sample of attorney interviews, our research has uncovered forces we describe as “post-racial hydraulics,” a set of non-ideological, economic, and pragmatism-based drivers produced by the trend toward universalism. We explain why “post-racial hydraulics” must be understood as key but previously unexplored factors in racial formation. Evidence suggests that, left unchecked, these non-ideological drivers will have substantive ideological effects, as they threaten to fundamentally reshape the employment litigation market and alter our understanding of race discrimination.

Keywords: discrimination, Title VII, civil rights, FLSA, fair labor standards act, wage and hour, universalism, particularism

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Eigen, Zev J. and Rich, Camille Gear and Alexander, Charlotte, Post-Racial Hydraulics: The Hidden Dangers of the Universal Turn (March 5, 2015). New York University Law Review, Forthcoming, USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 15-9, USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS15-9, Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 15-09, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-11, Available at SSRN: or

Zev J. Eigen (Contact Author)

Syndio Solutions ( email )

255 S. King St
9th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
United States


Camille Gear Rich

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-9043 (Phone)


Charlotte Alexander

Georgia State University – Institute for Insight ( email )

Tower Place 200, Third Floor
3348 Peachtree Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30326
United States

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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