Labour Law and Its 'Last' Generation
The Daunting Enterprise: Essays in Honour of Harry W. Arthurs (S. Archer, D. Drache, P. Zumbansen, eds) (McGill-Queens University Press, 2016)
Posted: 17 Mar 2017
Date Written: 2016
Harry Arthurs came of age as a legal scholar during labour law's golden era, when collective labour law was considered transformative and, in terms of regulatory technique, cutting edge. That period ended sometime around the late 1970s, and labour law has been searching for renewed relevance ever since. The well-worn narrative goes something like this: industrial pluralism, the intellectual project to which Harry devoted so much of his life's work, is dead, exposed as a temporary and ultimately failed project; 'labour' as a class has lost its emotive and descriptive power; the labour movement and the institution of collective bargaining are sliding towards irrelevance for a number of reasons, including the disintegration of the standard employment model, and deregulatory pressures generated by globalization. For Harry, the conclusion to be drawn is that we are living already in a world "after labour".
Such a thought is sobering indeed to those of us in the early stages of our careers as labour law scholars! Have we arrived at the examination table just in time to confirm Harry's dismal prognosis? If he is right, then what is left for us to do, other than to issue the subject we had thought to study with its death certificate? In the short essay, the authors consider Arthurs' exploration of the future of labour law as developed in his recent work, contrasting his approach to that taken by prominent British labour law scholars who have advocated a turn to "the law of labour markets". While Harry has also proposed an extension of labour law's boundaries beyond its traditional focus on the employment relationship, his approach remains firmly entrenched in the normative tradition of labour law.
Keywords: labour law, labor, legal theory, employment law, social law, industrial relations
JEL Classification: J00, J5, K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation