The State and the Regulation of Work and Employment: Theoretical contributions, forgotten lessons and new forms of engagement

Miguel Martinez Lucio, Robert MacKenzie

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Abstract

Within the work and employment literature there has been a tendency to conflate the concept of regulation with the legislative role of the state and the enforcement of rules through various state agencies. Yet there has been limited engagement with the question of the state and its role in more abstract terms. There has been a historic tendency to view the state as a coherent, unitary actor – a tendency repeated by various theoretical perspectives. More recently, work and employment debates on regulation have too often reduced the question of the state to a one dimensional focus on its various functions: the state as legislator; as employer; or in terms of its coercive apparatus. There has been relatively limited engagement with the role of the state in more conceptual terms. Drawing on contributions from adjacent disciplines, the paper argues that the role of the state needs to be addressed at various levels of abstraction – an approach that has been increasingly overlooked in work and employment debates. Understanding the role of the state and its regulatory function requires a nuanced analysis of the various spaces and actors involved the regulatory process. In turn, such analysis needs to be located in terms of broader socio-economic configurations so as to avoid a narrow focus on institutionalism, and a piecemeal, fragmented view of the state. While the paper draws primarily on the UK for illustration, the intention is that the argument has theoretical generalisability beyond this context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Early online date29 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • State
  • Regulation
  • Work
  • Employment
  • HRM
  • Employment relations

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