In a world economy that is simultaneously post-
Fordist and increasingly deregulated for the sake of flexibility in
developed economies, while mirroring the appalling conditions of
early Fordist industrialised production in developing markets, it is
becoming increasingly apparent that traditional conceptions of labour
law and its mechanisms are inadequate to provide a coherent
framework for labour protection. Regulatory concepts and institutional
structures, embedded in post World War II western social regulation,
reflecting not merely bygone production models but also the balance of
political and market forces’ power at a fixed point in time, should
therefore be re-examined, to correspond to the needs of 21st century
economy and labour.
This chapter proposes a re-examination of the conceptual foundations of labour protection and the history of collective labour organisation so as to rediscover the value and substance of the
concept of labour itself, and the objective of the mechanisms to ensure
its protection from coercion and abuse of power.
By examining the political history and the theoretical
basis of the emergence of collective labour institutions, the chapter
discusses the role of collective labour organisation and action as an
inherent catalyst for market democratisation, and, therefore, as a
prerequisite for a functional liberal democracy. By looking into the
historical roots of labour law, collective autonomy and self-determination are presented as crucial elements of any robust and coherent labour law system.
Furthermore, building upon ideas expressed by Polanyi and
Sinzheimer, among others, solidaristic structures of collective
expression of voice are shown to be integral in embedding the
economy in its socio-political context, inducing structural systemic
democratisation, and promoting an ethos of participation.
Subsequently, with reference to institutional law and
economics, it is argued that redefined fundamental concepts and
institutions, that correspond to the needs of those seeking protection of
their labour, will ultimately mould the particular version of a market
economy operating in a certain historical, political, economic and