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In Search of a New Language: Italian Labour Law Scholarship in the Face of European Integration

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Abstract: This paper explores how Italian labour lawyers, on the basis of different analytical perspectives, have approached the European integration process. Attention to the effectiveness of law, support for schools of legal pluralism, and the anchoring of legal discourse to the premises of constitutionalism are the components of the Italian tradition which embodies the attempt undertaken by labour lawyers in this decade to place their analyses within the more general stream of research on the overall direction of European integration, to rethink and redefine the process and the place occupied within it by social law and social rights. The impetus to cast off the clothes of a national labour law scholar and don those of a European one has revolved around the two apparently contrasting trends that are currently present on the Community scene: on the one hand, the advancement of a European constitutionalism which has marked a normative turning point in the unification process; on the other hand, the emergence of multi-level governancetechniques that are markedly different from the classical Community method. The paper argues that the most significant contribution that labour lawyers can provide, in view of their cultural background and tradition, to the legal theories on integration is that of proposing pluralism not only in terms of pluralism of norms, but also in terms of pluralism of institutions and powers. European legal integration cannot be understood and described as an autonomous process, divorced from the political sphere and competing social interests. The “anomaly” of labour law with respect to the other branches of legal science, its anti-dogmatic and anti-formalist approach, endows it with a unique ability to keep pace with the time of social change and predisposes it to grasp the highly dynamic and evolutionary character of the integration process.

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