Jean-Jacques ‪‎Rousseau‬: “The ‪rich‬ holds the ‪law‬ in his purse..” // “Le riche tient la loi dans sa bourse..”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1764. “La 9e Lettre écrite de la montagne.” Paris: Gallimard. (p. 287)


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  1. […] Following this important pioneering Sombart’s analysis, which surely entails various problems and blind spots, scholars and activists have continually debated whether the American labor is weak and conservative, and why. Gerald Friedman (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) decisively stresses that recognizing the role of law in the shaping of the American labor movement is crucial and necessary. In this very interesting paper “American Labor and American Law: Exceptionalism and its Politics in the Decline of the American Labor Movement” (open access), Friedman argues that already in the 19th century, the American legal tradition and judicial system contributed to “exceptionalism” by privileging individual rights over collective action, and by limiting the power of organizations, including governments as well as unions, over individual choice. While this individualist bias was modified in favor of the working class in the 1930s in the light of the New Deal legislations (Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act – Wagner Act and more), the Supreme Court quickly restored the individual bias in American labor law, leading to the collapse of unions in the later 20th century. For example, the Supreme Court never accepted the real intent of the Wagner Act to promote unionization. This paper urges us – it urged me – to reflect on the essence of law.  The essence of law, as I perceive it and at first glance it might seem as odd, embedded not in its formal definition and phrasing, but in its practical heterogeneous applications, while it “translated” by different actors (on the ground and in the court) from “law in book” to “law in action” in a specific societal context, not just projecting on real social  phenomena (such as labor, power and capital) but also determining their relations. I can not restrain  myself not to end this post with this remarkable Jean-Jacques ‪‎Rousseau‬’s quote: “The ‪rich‬ holds the ‪law‬ in his purse..” […]

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