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Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law$
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Hugh Collins, Gillian Lester, and Virginia Mantouvalou

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198825272

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198825272.001.0001

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The Contractualisation of Labour Law

The Contractualisation of Labour Law

Chapter:
(p.33) 2 The Contractualisation of Labour Law
Source:
Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law
Author(s):

John Gardner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198825272.003.0002

This chapter explores the idea that labour law rests on ‘a contractual foundation’, and the idea that work relations today are ever more ‘contractualised’. Section 1 lays out some essentials of British labour law and its connections with the common law of contract. Section 2 explains what contractualisation is, not yet focusing attention on the specific context of labour law. The main claims are that contract is not a specifically legal device, and that contractualisation is therefore not a specifically legal process, even when the law is complicit in it. Section 3 shifts attention to the world of work, especially the employment relationship. Here the main ideas are that the employment relationship is not (apart from the law) a contractual relationship, and that all the norms of the employment relationship cannot therefore be captured adequately in a contract, legally binding or otherwise. Section 4 illustrates the latter point by focusing on the rationale and the limits of the employer’s authority over the employee. A contractual rationale yields the wrong limits. It gives its blessing to authoritarian work regimes and lends credence to the miserable view that work is there to pay for the life of the worker without forming part of that life. Throughout the chapter there are intimations of the conclusion drawn in section 5: that contractualisation, in the labour market at least, is a process that lovers of freedom, as well as lovers of self-realisation, should resist—or rather, should have resisted while they still had the chance.

Keywords:   contract, employment, relationships, authority, freedom, alienation

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