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Modern Slavery, Unfree Labour and the Labour Market: The Social Dynamics of Legal Characterization

Fudge, Judy (2018) Modern Slavery, Unfree Labour and the Labour Market: The Social Dynamics of Legal Characterization. Social & Legal Studies, 27 (4). pp. 414-434. ISSN 0964-6639. E-ISSN 1461-7390. (doi:10.1177/0964663917746736) (KAR id:65051)

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Treating the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act as its focus, this article examines what the legal characterization of labour unfreedom reveals about the underlying conception of the labour market that informs contemporary approaches to labour law in the United Kingdom. It discusses how unfree labour is conceptualized within two key literatures – Marxist-inspired political economy and liberal approaches to modern slavery – and their underlying assumptions of the labour market and how it operates. As an alternative to these depictions of the labour market, it proposes a legal institutionalist or constitutive account. It develops an approach to legal characterization and jurisdiction that is attentive to modes of governing and the role of political and legal differentiation both in producing labour exploitation and unfree labour and in developing strategies for its elimination. It argues that the problem with the modern slavery approach to unfree labour is that it tends to displace labour law as the principal remedy to the problem of labour abuse and exploitation, while simultaneously reinforcing the idea that flexible labour markets of the type that prevails in the United Kingdom are realms of labour freedom.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/0964663917746736
Uncontrolled keywords: Modern Slavery Act, unfree labour, labour exploitation
Subjects: K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Depositing User: Sian Robertson
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2017 10:34 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:51 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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