The Labor Judge Unleashed: Rule of Law and Labor Rights in 'Neoliberal' Chile
Posted: 5 Dec 2017 Last revised: 26 Mar 2020
Date Written: November 28, 2017
Hoping to improve labor justice, some Latin American countries have reformed their labor courts without necessarily buttressing working-class power. Class power theories make us skeptical of these state-centric strategies for labor rights. Will the “rule-of-law” reforms work? This article reports ethnographic evidence collected by the author in the Chilean labor courts during 2009-2010, and secondary sources. It compares contemporary labor courts, reformed but in an otherwise “neoliberal” context, with the unreformed labor courts of the “socialist” years (1970-1972) to gauge the efficacy of rule-of-law reforms. Results show that despite the neoliberal context, the labor courts were more responsive to workers’ claims than under socialism. Rule of law and procedural rules matter for effective labor rights.
Keywords: labor courts, rule of law, Chile, neoliberalism, socialism
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