Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Thelen on Employer Organization, Law & American Exceptionalism

Just out in a special issue of Law and Contemporary Problems (83:2) devoted to “The Market as a Legal Construct,” is Employer Organization and the Law: American Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective, by Kathleen Thelen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  It commences:
In the literature on political economy and historical sociology, American exceptionalism has typically been framed as a question of why American labor unions appeared so weak and so conservative compared to their European counterparts. The usual answers point to American political culture, characteristics of the working class, features of American political parties or the party system, or aspects of the American state. However, by posing the question as an inquiry into what is different about American labor, scholars have overlooked the possibility that what is exceptional about the United States may have more to do with the distinctive features of American employers rather than of its unions or its working class.

This Article attempts to fill that gap by bringing a comparative perspective to bear on an underexplored aspect of American exceptionalism: the peculiar features of American employers and the legal framework regulating firm competition in which they  historically developed....
See also Masters to Managers: Historical and Comparative Perspectives on American Employers, ed. Sanford M. Jacoby (Columbia University Press, 1991).

--Dan Ernst