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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Seeing Work, Envisioning Citizenship

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What is work? Who is a worker? Labor & employment law scholars have increasingly interrogated work and employment asconstructed categories, categories whose legal definition incorporates a host of culturally and historically specific assumptions. These constructions are crucial not only for workers’ rights on the job but also for citizenship rights in the welfare state. To be a worker is to beprotected by labor law, by wage & hour law, by employment discrimination law, and so on, but also to be entitled to disability, unemployment, and retirement benefits provided by the state butconditioned on employment. To put it broadly, to gain the title worker is also to belong, to become entitled to what T.H. Marshall called social citizenship – “the right to a modicum of economic welfare and security . . . the right to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life of a civilised being according to the standards prevailing in society.”1 This is where labor & employment law meets social welfare policy.

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