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Short history of emergence of labour laws

The development of law can be traced with the emergence of states and its contents depended on the material conditions existing in the society.
According to the Marxist approach, law was a result of class struggle between people owning the means of production (the ruling class) and the group with no means of production (the ruled class).

The characteristic of law is different from one society to another depending on the stage of development, the conjuncture of class struggle and the historical and cultural factors pertaining to legal consciousness as a whole.

This correlates with the positive approach to law as a command of the sovereign (government) enforced by sanctions.Likewise, the preachers of natural rights, such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Hugo Grotius and Montesquieu, argue that law is a social contract between the rulers and the ruled on how they want to be governed.

However, the Marxist approach explains the origin of labour law in the society. Labour law is founded on what is known as wage labour; that is, labour offered in exchange for money.

There are three conditions for development of fully fledged wage labour, namely:
  1. There must be a considerable development of a commodity economy as opposed to a natural economy.This means that, there should be enough commodity production in a given community for exchange.
  2. There must be labour power capable of being exchanged for money or capital.This requires having energetic people skilled, semi skilled and unskilled that can provide labour in the establishments (industries).
  3. There must be free labour, i.e. labour power (as a commodity) must be free in order to be sold or exchanged in the market: free labour presupposes that the producer is separated from his own means of production, basically land, and the workers rely solely on labour power.

Looking at the above elements, it can be stated that wage labour was non- existent in the traditional and classless societies.

This is to say that during primitive communalism there was no commodity production. People only produced food for consumption.

There was no developed group of workers since all members of the society were equal (equality of all members) and they shared resources including labour power equally among the members taking into account age and gender differentiation. Likewise, none of the societies appeared to have reached at the stage of using ‘universal equivalent’ in their exchange, rather the system of exchange was based on barter trade; and there was no group of middlemen or professional traders.

The transformation from classless societies to class societies had the impact on labour relations. This meant that there was social stratification in the society: slave masters vs slaves, and land owners (feudal lords) against serfs.

This to say the impact of classes in the society leads to the existence of the  laws we hacve today concern labour and employment relation.

Written By Pilly J.

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