March 22, 2011
Hyde Says Labor Theory is Bunk
Alan Hyde (Rutgers-Newark) has just posted on SSRN his chapter The Idea of the Idea of Labour Law: A Parable, from the forthcoming The Idea of Labour Law, Langille, Davidov, eds., Oxford University Press, 2011. Here's the abstract:
In times and places when labor law functions as an important social institution, participants in the system often hold conflicting and overlapping conceptions of its purpose (e.g. wealth redistribution, democracy, conflict resolution) without apparent dissonance or dysfunction. Paradoxically, as labor law declines in social importance, academics assert increasingly bizarre and untethered concepts of its basic purpose (e.g. Kantian ethics, lowered transaction costs, solving collective action problems). These concepts reflect the need of teachers of labor law to justify their choice of subject and place in the academy as the social importance of their institution declines. Soon, however, labor law, like securities or banking regulation, will be understood as orderly procedures by which specialists accomplish technical ends, without any expectation that the field will inspire politically or morally.
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Alan's chapter is nothing short of brilliant. I recommend it to everyone but traditional labor law people should not read it unless they're prepared to be depressed about their own field.
Posted by: Dennis Nolan | Mar 22, 2011 10:03:31 AM
Well, yes, academics justify academic disciplines not immediately tethered to what some might call social reality. I guess I could allow myself to be depressed - though folks in other, more bizarre endeavors, from my perspective, seem to survive their depression just fine. The reason this working class guy loves labor law, however, is precisely because it is tethered so intimately to the social reality of non-elites, at least in the way I try to approach the discipline. The subject of the law ultimately is my family and friends. I would not have attended law school if I felt I was limited to studying the rules of the commercial order.
Posted by: Michael Duff | Mar 23, 2011 7:19:42 AM