Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Matthew W. Finkin and Guy Mundlak
Chapter 6: Employee autonomy, privacy, and dignity under technological oversight
The Industrial Revolution established the factory as the site of waged work, eclipsing the household workshop as a center of production. Private life was thus placed at a remove from managerial oversight as the factory became a place of strict control, of punctuality and performance. Even so, management’s incessant drive to reduce uncertainty in its business environment, to anticipate risk and to plan for contingencies drives it to maximize what it knows or could know about applicants and employees. The exponential growth of information technology today abets this desire: it can render the employee accessible and transparent anywhere, collapsing the distinction between life at and life away from work. To Alain Supiot, the law’s anthropological function is to intervene between the human and the machine – to humanize technology. The question explored in this chapter is whether that anthropological function is so; whether the laws of industrialized nations conduce toward that common end. This examination will move along two axes: First, by specific reference to three nation-states; and, second, by reference to a set of human interests which the deployment of technology confronts and which find expression, or not, in these nations’ laws. In other words, this chapter is as much an exercise in comparative legal culture as it is of comparative law alone. Three countries have been chosen for exposition. They represent ideal types around which other states can be understood to orbit, albeit at a greater or lesser remove.
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