The rise and fall of EU labour law

Date01 January 2018
Published date01 January 2018
The rise and fall of EU labour law
Stefano Giubboni*
EU labourlawnamely that heterogeneous, unstablecombination of interventions, tools,measures, sourcesthrough
which the EU directly or indirectlyimpacts on the normative and functional frameworksof individual and collective
labour law systemsof the Member States in a relationshipof mutual interference and interactionis experiencing a
progressive loss of r elevance, with an unprecedented decl ine of its normative rationales, func tions, regulatory
techniques, and con stitutional hierarchies. This articl e offers a critical reflection on the reas ons behind such a
regressive path in the c ontext of the EU crisis.
Writings on the crisis of labour law have witnessed an unprecedented proliferation in recent years.
The circumstance
is hardly surprising: the crisisand even the end
of labour law has been, indeed, a typical matter of concern in labour
law scholars' debates for decades, being inextricably connected to the many turning points of the great transforma-
tions of Western capitalist economies. It is not by chance that this indissoluble connection with the economic crisis
was famously described by Hugo Sinzheimer as early as in 1933the annus horribilis of the rise to power of Nazism
in an essay written in the full maturity of his intellectual and political life, and which is a classic reference point of
such critical strands of thinking. The terrible storm that shakes the entire organization of our civil life, as he wrote
at that dramatic juncture, among all the fields of the legal system has particularly affected labour law. We should
not be surprised, when considering labour law's foundation as a distinct legal discipline. This founding cornerstone
is the economy, an essential element of which is employment. Economic relationships, their theories and regulations
have a crucial meaning for labour law.
Therefore, it was almost inevitable that the issue of the crisis of labour law would arise again in the wake of
the dramatic social consequences generated by the great recession following the global financial crisis in 2008.
And it was inevitable that it would arise in those illsuited countries of the European Union (EU), and especially
of the Eurozone, that, having been hit by the effects of a highly asymmetrical crisis more intensely and for a longer
Professor of Labour Law at the University of Perugia
Suffice it here to reference the collective works recently dedicated to the crisis of the idea and of traditional categories of labour law
as a typical instrument for the protection of employees as the weak contractual party: Catherine Barnard, Simon Deakin and Gillian
Morris (eds.), The Future of Labour Law. Liber Amicorum Sir Bob Hepple QC (Hart Publishing, 2004); Guy Davidov and Brian Langille
(eds.), The Idea of Labour Law (Oxford University Press, 2011); Alan Bogg, Cathryn Costello, Anne Davies and Jeremias Prassl (eds.),
The Autonomy of Labour Law (Hart Publishing, 2015); Adalberto Perulli (ed.), L'idea del diritto del lavoro, oggi. In ricordo di Giorgio Ghezzi
(CEDAM, 2016).
Keith Ewing, The Death of Labour Law?(1988) 8 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 293300; Cynthia Estlund, The Death of Labor
Law?(2006) 2 Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences, 105123.
Hugo Sinzheimer, Die Krisis des Arbeitsrecht, in Id., Arbeitsrecht und Rechtssoziologie (Otto Brenner Stiftung, 1976 [1933]).
DOI: 10.1111/eulj.12239
Eur Law J. 2018;24:720. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons 7

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