Examining the Law Syllabus: The Core

By P. B. H. Birks; Society of Public Teachers of Law (London, England) | Go to book overview

12. The Necessity of a Multi-disciplinary Labour Law

S. FREDMAN

ANY discussion of a multi-disciplinary approach to labour law must begin with Kahn-Freund. It was Kahn-Freund who, through his insights into the essential links between labour law and social forces, breathed new life into labour law. Most importantly, this multifaceted approach enabled him to highlight the central role played by 'non-law' in industrial relations.

After nearly 13 years of rule by the Conservative government, the picture has changed dramatically. There is now so much law in labour law, that technical legal details threaten to submerge the syllabus. As a result, students rarely have the opportunity of reading the political theory and sociology which previously attracted them to labour law as a welcome break from their core subjects. Instead, labour law has the image of a heavy and difficult black letter law subject, and students flock to other options like Criminal Justice and Penology.

I would like to argue for a reinstatement of the multi-disciplinary approach to labour law. There are three reasons for this. The first is practical: a detailed technical knowledge of labour law is likely to be obsolete by the time the students come to use it in practice. It is clearly necessary to have a good grasp of the framework of the law, and of the detail in a few select areas, so that the student is able to assimilate and assess future reform. But this could be done within the contours of a thematic and contextual approach. The second reason for a multi-disciplinary approach is one of survival: to restore labour law as a subject students choose to study. The last and most important reason is intellectual. It remains as true as ever that labour law is centrally concerned with social power and the impact of law on power. It should therefore be studied within at least two dimensions: firstly, the relevant social forces and secondly, the efficacy of law as a means of addressing these.

This approach can be illustrated by considering one of the core topics in labour law: anti-discrimination law. I hope to use this topic to demonstrate that the multi-disciplinary approach is both viable and intellectually essential. As in other fields of labour law, anti-discrimination law includes a complex legislative framework and a vast body of case-law, diligently reported in the Industrial Relations Law Reports. It is further complicated by the central role of EC law. Yet it is also a paradigm example of law addressing social issues. Thus we need to include in the syllabus, not only the legal materials, but also readings enabling students to address the social issues, and the appropriateness of law as an instrument of change.

The first dimension, namely the social forces at play, may be introduced by considering labour market statistics and analyses thereof. In particular, continuing pay disparities, job segregation, and underrepresentation in positions of power and status, demonstrate the continuing nature of sexual and racial disadvantage. These statistics are readily accessible, although more so for sex than for race discrimination. For the former, the Equal Opportunities Commission regularly produces its Women and Men in Britain which contains up-to-date statistics and brief analyses. The Employment Gazette periodically provides statistics on racial discrimination.1 There are several analyses of these statistics: one good example is Rubery edited collection, Women and Recession.2

The second question, the appropriateness of law as an instrument of social change, is addressed most directly in feminist literature. Students could be given a selection of short readings to give them the flavour of the debate. This literature, while pessimistic of the utility of law, also introduces students to new perspectives and ways of thinking about law in general. The following are four examples of easily accessible readings. Firstly, it is worth giving students a taste of Catharine MacKinnon, who argues in her inimitable way that concepts of equality merely conceal women's continuing subordination.3 Secondly, Deborah Rhode Justice and Gender is an informative and fluent book which takes up the debate about equality and difference, as well as giving a flavour of the American legal approach.4 Thirdly, Carol Smart in Feminism and the Power of Law5 has a more pervasive scepticism about law than the American authors, arguing that the rhetoric of rights has been exhausted and that legal language

____________________
1
For a summary of these statistics, see B. Hepple and S. Fredman Labour Law and Industrial Relations in Great Britain (Kluwer, 1992) paras. 35-338.
2
J. Rubery (ed.) Women and Recession ( 1988) especially chapters 4, 8 and 9.
3
C. MacKinnon Feminism Unmodified ( 1987) chapter 2.
4
D. Rhode Justice and Gender ( 1989), chapters 5 and 8; and see also D. Rhode "'Feminist Perspectives on Legal Ideology'" in Mitchell and Oakley, chapter 9.
5
( 1989), pp. 138-146.

-69-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Examining the Law Syllabus: The Core
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 120

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.