The capabilities approach: A panacea for labour law’s ills?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Review essay of: Brian langille, The Capability Approach to Labour Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019)

In recent years, there has been a tendency to view the subject of labour law and its goals through the prism of philosophy, and political philosophy in particular. A veritable ‘cottage industry’ has sprung up devoted to this task. In this paper, I analyze the arguments presented by various authors in a book recently published under the editorship of Professor Brian Langille on The Capability Approach to Labour Law, which makes an important contribution to labour law scholarship. I make the point that the capabilities approach – a theory belonging to political philosophy – is undoubtedly a useful instrument insofar as it enables labour lawyers to sell the claims and arguments that the subject is attempting to make, but that if it is presented as an ostensibly univocal foundation, it is unlikely to stack up. Instead, by abstracting its partial and pluralist base, capabilities can be reconceptualised as only one justification for particular labour laws, serving alongside many other political philosophies. In this way, a veritable patchwork quilt of different foundations for specific labour laws can be stitched together. This paper then goes on to make some preliminary observations as to how such a fabric could be embroidered in a coherent and systematic manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-591
JournalUniversity of Toronto Law Journal
Issue number4
Early online date31 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • capabilities theory
  • contract of employment
  • employment law
  • employment rights
  • labour law
  • labour rights
  • human development
  • human development index
  • personal human development
  • political philosophy


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