Edited by Janice R. Bellace and Beryl ter Haar
Chapter 7: Worker rights as human rights: regenerative reconception or rhetorical refuge?
This chapter tracks the trajectory of labor rights discourse in the United States: from ‘citizenship’ in the post-Revolutionary period, to ‘humanitarianism’ in the period of early industrialized, to ‘class struggle’ in the Guild Age, to ‘public benefit’, the language of institutional economics in the Progressive Period. The discourse of ‘human rights’, which resonates sympathetically with the early reformist efforts to extend political rights into the workplace, lacks any contemporary traction. That manner of conceptualisation was eclipsed and then foreclosed by economic reasoning, increasingly neo-liberal. This chapter suggests that that discourse might possibly be able to be resorted to afresh and with practical effect, but only by exacting attention to its precise grounding and only by parsimonious care in application.
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