Constitution and Work

This project considers the possibilities for a critical theorization of labour law. It asks, more specifically, whether the idea of the constitutionalisation of employment relations under changing global conditions can help us towards such a theorization; and, in addition, how we might make sense of the idea of ‘constitutionalisation’ in this context.

Much of what has been written about labour law over the past ten years or so emphasises a move away from labour law’s traditional function of redressing asymmetries in the respective positions of employers and workers through protective measures, and towards a full-blown market paradigm which focuses on maximizing flexibility. There is a growing perception, it seems, that ‘old ways’ of regulating – and thinking about – employment relations have become inappropriate. In place of the old ways, there is much discussion of the benefits of minimal or ‘light’ regulation, and of reflexive law, responsive law, soft law and default rules, their meaning shifting to track developments from their origin in state regulation to current configurations of global ‘regulation’.

It is in light of this ‘turn to the market’ by scholars as well as policy-makers that we address the question of the usefulness of the idea of the constitution to the project of constructing a critical labour law. Though the idea of constitutionalising employment relations, or labour law, is raised with increasing frequency in recent years, it remains under-theorised. Working collaboratively on this project will allow us to apply a variety of theoretical perspectives (socio-legal, legal anthropological, systems theoretical, legal historical) to our research questions, so that we might draw conclusions about the usefulness of the idea of constitutionalisation in this context: about its potential to address concrete problems experienced by working people today. It will allow us to bring together a group of scholars with expertise in public law, labour law and legal theory (Gunther Teubner, Harry Arthurs, Alain Supiot) and to foster a productive interface between the three disciplines.

Past events

Seminar Series: Constitutionalizing Employment Relations Autumn 2009 


R Dukes (2014) The Labour Constitution: the Enduring Idea of Labour Law, Oxford
R Dukes (2014) ‘A Global Labour Constitution?’ 65(3) Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 283-301
E Christodoulidis, R Dukes (2010) A Supiot, KD Ewing, T Novitz, F Rödl, C Woolfson ‘Debate and Dialogue: Labour, Constitution and a Sense of Measure’ 19(2) Social & Legal Studies 217-252
E Christodoulidis, G Teubner, C Thornhill, H Lindahl (2011) ‘Debate and Dialogue: Constitutionalizing Polycontexturality’ 20(2) Social & Legal Studies 209-52
Dukes, R., and Christodoulidis, E. (2012) 'Habermas and the European social dialogue: deliberative democracy as industrial democracy?; 18(4) International Union Rights Journal 20-21.