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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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Is the Contract of Employment Illiberal?

Is the Contract of Employment Illiberal?

(p.48) 3 Is the Contract of Employment Illiberal?
Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law

Hugh Collins

Oxford University Press

The authoritarian character of many work relationships raises the question whether the legal institution of the contract of employment is inherently opposed to liberal values such as support for civil liberties, freedom, and equality before the law. Having analysed the nature of the relation of subordination that lies at the heart of employment relations in terms of practical authority, the chapter argues that there is an inherent tension between the legal structure of employment and guarantees for the exercise of civil liberties and the principle of equality before the law, but that any tension with the value of positive freedom or freedom from domination is contingent on the particular circumstances of the case. Having rebutted an objection to the relevance of liberal values to a moral assessment of a private contractual arrangement such as employment, the chapter concludes by arguing that a prime focus for labour law should be the reduction or elimination of the inherent conflict between the contract of employment and liberal values.

Keywords:   liberalism, freedom, equality, civil liberties, contract of employment, practical authority

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