Are Workers Dominated?

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 16 (1) (2019)
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This article undertakes a republican analysis of power in the workplace and labour market in order to determine whether workers are dominated by employers. Civic republicans usually take domination to be subjection to an arbitrary power to interfere with choice. But when faced with labour disputes over what choices it is normal for workers to make for themselves, these accounts of domination struggle to determine whether employers possess the power to interfere. I propose an alternative capabilitarian conception of domination as the arbitrary power to determine access to capabilities necessary for relationships of equality between citizens. This approach allows us to diagnose domination in the workplace and the labour market but does not capture unfreedom arising from the wider socio-structural position of workers. Thus, I supplement this capabilitarian account of the domination of workers with a structural account of dominating power, which reveals a richer set of conditions under which employers dominate workers.

Author's Profile

Tom O'Shea
University of Edinburgh


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