Labour History

Labour History and the “Neoliberal Era”: Context and Conceptualisation

Labour History (2022), 122, (1), 1–20.

Abstract

This study examines the concept of neoliberalism with specific reference to labour history, focusing on the “neoliberal era” of the past four decades. During this period, the term “neoliberalism” has increasingly permeated not only academic research but also political debates and everyday discussions. This proliferation, though, has often been accompanied by growing confusion and inconsistency regarding the meaning and application of the term. To address this problem, a single question is posed here: how might neoliberalism be reconceptualised more coherently and consistently with respect to labour history and the “neoliberal era”? Aotearoa-New Zealand’s Employment Contracts Act 1991 (ECA), the most dramatic historical example of neoliberal employment relations legislation in the predominantly Anglophone nations, provides the initial example from which to address this question. The location of the ECA towards the libertarian end of a libertarian-authoritarian legislative spectrum underpins an examination of the methodological value of neoliberalism with respect to labour history. Citing the distant, profoundly authoritarian example of the 1791 Loi Le Chapelier, the term “reliberalisation” is introduced to illustrate the historical continuity from the earliest manifestations of “free” wage labour to the present “neoliberal era.”

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Lafferty, George