Between Authority and Domination: Taming the Managerial Prerogative at Work

Thu Mar 07 2024 at 05:00 pm to 07:00 pm

Edinburgh Law School | Edinburgh

University of Pretoria and University of Edinburgh
Publisher/HostUniversity of Pretoria and University of Edinburgh
Between Authority and Domination: Taming the Managerial Prerogative at Work
Cynthia Estlund is the Catherine A. Rein Professor of Law at NYU Law School will talk about taming the managerial prerogative at work.
About this Event

About the event

What is required and what is possible to curb the potential for employer domination of workers within firms that are managed on behalf of owners of capital? Implicit in the question are two premises that we will defend only incompletely here: a neorepublican-inspired goal of securing freedom as nondomination, and a presumed context of capitalist work relations. Here we ask whether and how these premises can be reconciled. Plainly employment entails a degree of subordination to the authority of managers who, under capitalism, answer primarily to capital. If subordination to managerial authority equates to domination, we would have to abandon either our normative commitment to non-domination or our acceptance of managerial authority under capitalism. We think the answer lies in a delimited conception of managerial authority. Workers, in entering the employment relationship, consent to a measure of subordination to managerial authority during working time while employed; but they do not consent to employer domination. That is, they consent to the legitimate economic authority of managers to direct work and manage the workplace, but not to the arbitrary or uncontrolled exercise of authority of the sort that would amount to domination. In our view, a crucial task of the law of work is to regulate managerial authority over workers—by confining that authority and enabling workers to escape it, challenge it legally, or contest it informally—so that subordination does not morph into domination; and to do so without suffocating the managerial discretion that firms and the economy need to thrive.

About the speaker

Cynthia Estlund is the Catherine A. Rein Professor at NYU School of Law. Her most recent book is Automation Anxiety: Why and How to Save Work (Oxford, 2021). She has published widely on the law and regulation of work, including three earlier books: A New Deal for China’s Workers? (Harvard, 2017); Regoverning the Workplace: From Self-Regulation to Co-Regulation (Yale, 2010); and Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy (Oxford, 2003). She has also produced two co-edited volumes and over eighty articles, book chapters, reviews, and essays on a range of topics in collective labor law, employment law, and workplace governance, mainly on US law but also comparative perspectives. She teaches Labor Law and Employment Law, and several seminars in the area, as well as Property and Torts. Before coming to NYU Law in 2006, she taught at the University of Texas School of Law and Columbia Law School.


Event Venue & Nearby Stays

Edinburgh Law School, South Bridge, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


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