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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

George I Lovell
POL S 565
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Public Law

Examination of current topics on the theory and practice of public law. Content varies according to recent developments in the field and the research interests of the instructor.

Class description

This graduate seminar uses a topical focus on workers and labor organizations to explore some general questions about how law impacts collective mobilization and the exercise of political and economic power. Labor is an illuminating topic for such enquiry because workplaces are important locations of class conflict, class-consciousness, and the exercise of repressive power by both employers and government. Conflicts over regulation of work have been the single most important factor shaping two centuries of constitutional development in the U.S. The explosive growth in inequality in the U.S. over the past three decades corresponds to dramatic decline in organized laborís political power, itself a reflection of antiquated labor laws that make it increasingly difficult for workers to organize. In addition, the conditions under which people work are now a frequent focus of transnational legal and political mobilization around human rights issues.

Scholars and judges often conceptualize the sale of labor as a voluntary market transaction. This course, in contrast, considers how law and other factors constrain the autonomy of people who enter into such transactions. Law regulates workplace conditions and activities and facilitates the use of repression to defeat efforts to exercise collective power. Law helps to determine levels of employment and migration of workers and contributes to the marginalization of immigrant workers.

The seminar most often focuses on the U.S., tracing a historical trajectory from Common Law judicial regulation in the 19th century through the development of the current system of administrative regulation. The course also regularly places the U.S. case in comparative and global perspective, and considers how transnational migration of workers and capital affect worker power. The approach is interdisciplinary. A variety of research methodologies are considered, with special emphasis on historical and comparative case studies and interpretive methods. The course is for students interested in American political development, legal mobilization, legal and labor history, social movement politics, migration, and normative questions about the compatibility of democratic politics with undemocratic and coercive workplaces. Address questions to George Lovell at glovell@uw.edu

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by George I Lovell
Date: 03/13/2013