Race, Solidarity, and Commerce: Work Law as Privatized Public Law

By Shirley Lin. 

Theorizing work and its regulation has held enduring appeal for legal theorists. Yet intellectual movements that wish to theorize worker coercion within a broader critique of law often sidestep race. Since Lochner, landmark opinions involving race, labor, or both, have served as showpieces for the legal liberal tenets underpinning work law’s doctrines and institutions. Each iteration of the public/private divide instantiates an ideological—but avowedly race-neutral—structure for how we study, teach, and propose to reshape work law. Scholars, judges, and lawmakers typically cede this ground, perhaps because law itself is under right-wing attack. Full Article.