Translatio versus Concessio: Retrieving the Debate about Contracts of Alienation with an Application to Today’s Employment Contract

Politics and Society 33 (3):449-480 (2005)
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Liberalism is based on the juxtaposition of consent to coercion. Autocracy and slavery were based on coercion whereas today’s political democracy and economic “employment system” are based on consent to voluntary contracts. This article retrieves an almost forgotten dark side of contractarian thought that based autocracy and slavery on explicit or implicit voluntary contracts. The democratic and antislavery movements forged arguments not simply in favor of consent but arguments that voluntary contracts to alienate aspects of personhood were invalid—which made the underlying rights inalienable. Once understood, those arguments apply as well to today’s self-rental contract, the employer-employee contract.

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David Ellerman
University of Ljubljana


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