ZWeR 2021, 460

RWS Verlag Kommunikationsforum GmbH & Co. KG, Köln RWS Verlag Kommunikationsforum GmbH & Co. KG, Köln 2199-1723 Zeitschrift für Wettbewerbsrecht ZWeR 2021 AufsätzeAndre Fiebig* / David Gerber**

The Causes and Consequences of the Neo-Brandeisian Antitrust Movement in the United States

The recent appointments of Timothy Wu as Special Assistant to the U.S. President for Technology and Competition Policy and Lina Khan, a member of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, two prominent advocates for a fundamental shift in U.S. antitrust policy, and the introduction of federal and state legislation to change how antitrust is applied signal a realistic possibility of a fundamental change of direction in the course of U.S. antitrust. The shift advocated by these self-described “Brandeisians” goes beyond the reform proposals advocated by the Post-Chicago School movement. Whereas the Post-Chicago School movement, which was based primarily on industrial organization theory, advocated for change while recognizing the primacy of economic theory in the application of antitrust law, the Neo-Brandeisians argue that economic considerations should only be part of the substantive antitrust analysis and not necessarily the determinative factor.
For many Europeans, and in particular Germans familiar with legal history, the ideas advanced by the Neo-Brandeisians will be familiar. Louis Brandeis, whose writings and opinions serve as the intellectual compass of the Neo-Brandeisians, was himself influenced by the Freirechtsbewegung and their skepticism of a wertfreie jurisprudence. Borrowing from post-modernist philosophy, the Neo-Brandeisians recognize that the dominant legal doctrines reflect the prevailing power structures in society. In their view, the fact that U.S. antitrust law relies heavily on economic theory does not allow it to claim value neutrality. The more radical members of this movement consequently argue that other values beyond economics should be considered in the application of U.S. antitrust law by the courts and antitrust agencies. In this article we attempt to introduce this movement to a European audience and assess its possible impact on the direction of U.S. antitrust.


  • I. The Sociological Jurisprudence of Louis Brandeis
  • II. The Rise of the Neo-Brandeisian Movement
    • 1. Increased Sensitivity to Inequality and the Perceived Failure of Antitrust
    • 2. Weakening of the Theoretical Foundation of the Dominant Paradigm
    • 3. Increased Competition Among Systems
    • 4. The Rise of Big Tech
  • III. Tenets of the Neo-Brandeisian Movement
    • 1. Critical Aspects of the Neo-Brandeisian Movement
      • 1.1 The Inability of Economics to Capture all Effects
      • 1.2 The Dominance of the Consumer Welfare Standard
      • 1.3 The Role of Political Power in the Application of Antirust
      • 1.4 Lack of Faith in the Ability of Markets to Self-Correct
    • 2. Normative Aspects of the Neo-Brandeisian Movement
      • 2.1 Proactively Address Market Concentration
      • 2.2 Greater Use of Presumptions
      • 2.3 Protection of the Process of Competition
      • 2.4 Greater Democratization
      • 2.5 More Proactive Role for the Agencies
  • IV. The Future of the Movement
Partner, Quarles & Brady LLP, Chicago
University Distinguished Professor, Distinguished Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law

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