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6 J. Corp. L. Stud. 361 (2006)
Labour and the Corporation

handle is hein.journals/corplstd6 and id is 361 raw text is: 


Journal of Corporate Law Studies


                   LABOUR AND THE CORPORATION


                              SALLY WHEELER*


      This paper engages with two theories of thefirm  those provided by law and economics and
      stakeholding from the standpoint of how they engage with the labour interest. The paper then
      moves on to look at the nature of work and worklife in the modem corporation. The suggestion is
      that the realio of worklife is not captured by the theories of thefirm as they currently standfor
      the reasons the paper gives. An alternative theoy is posited which builds on the idea of ethical
      dialogue inspired by the work of Levinas.



                              A. INTRODUCTION

In some of my recent work1 I have focused on constructing an ethical
grounding for corporate social involvement in society. The ethical model that I
put forward centres on Aristotelian virtue ethics. This, I suggest, is a way of
clothing corporate interventions in sustainability; practicality and ultimately
legitimacy In this way ethical or fair-trade branding, monetary donations
and support of third sector activities, and cause-related marketing can
become something more than the temporary provision of Coca-Cola and
Starbuckstopia2 on as grand a scale as possible. In this paper I want to build
on that work by focusing my attention on the concept of labour/waged
employment/work (call it what you will), as it is described in the discourses of
corporate law. My intention is to provide a critique of current theoretical
models of the corporation. My stance is that they are drawing on outdated
models of political economy and as such are ill-equipped to deal with
developments in the relationship between the corporation and labour. I offer
instead a reading of labour and corporate interaction which draws on the ideas
of Levinas. This reading, based around notions of ethical dialogue, has a much
closer resonance with recent legislative interventions into the environment of
the employment relationship. In Section B of the paper I sketch out the way in
which labour is described in the law and economics literature the mouthpiece


* Professor of Law, Queens Belfast.
I S Wheeler, Corporations and the Third Way (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2002).
2 I have borrowed this term directly from V Fournier, Utopianism and the Cultivation of
   Possibilities: Grassroots Movements of Hope in M Parker (ed), Utopia and Organization (Oxford,
   Blackwell, 2002), 189, 190.


October 2006

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