[Featured Resource] Using Legal Empowerment for Labour Rights in India

This week’s featured resource is Using Legal Empowerment for Labour Rights in India, and comes to us from the Journal of Development Studies, 2019, Vol. 55, No. 3, p. 401–419.

This paper uses the case of India to bring labour back into the recent literature on the use of legal empowerment to address poverty and exclusion. In doing so, it urges scholars to move past the mutually exclusive dyad commonly used to distinguish class interests from citizen or identity-based interests. This depiction of class versus identity has had two drawbacks. First, it has created an unnecessary horse race between the two sides, where scholars have featured either class or identity movements in certain periods, when in reality both have always been extant. Second, it has overlooked the raw fact that interests and movements based on class and ascriptive identities usually intersect with one another. Overlooking the resilient presence of class and ascriptive identities, as well as their intersectionalities, has eclipsed our analysis of poor workers’ evolving role and shifting strategies in legal empowerment movements over time.

More about Using Legal Empowerment for Labour Rights in India :

Employing a historical lens, the author outlines three waves of legal movements. Each wave is distinguished by its timing, the state-level target, and the actors involved. In all three waves, legal empowerment was won, not bestowed. Labour played a significant role, fighting in each subsequent wave for an expanded identity to address exclusions. Drawing from the Indian case, this paper’s findings highlight the evolving strategies of legal empowerment movements vis à vis uneven welfare states. They underline the significance of symbolic power of legal recognition, even in the absence of perfect implementation. Finally, they highlight contemporary workers as an overlooked, identity-based group that addresses the intersectionalities between class and ascriptive characteristics.

You can access this resource in our library at the following link:

As always, please let us know your thoughts on this resource by commenting below.

The Featured Resource is a short profile of a key resource found in the resource library of the Global Legal Empowerment Network. These resources can be older or brand new, but they all touch on important themes within legal empowerment. If you have a resource you would like to profile with the network, upload it directly at this link or email it to community@namati.org


Very useful resource, the issue of legal empowerment through labour rights is useful to our comunity.


How likely are you to recommend the Global Legal Empowerment Network?

Thank you. What can we do better?

Thank you. What can be improved?

Fabulous! What do you like most?

Thanks for giving feedback! If you’re reporting a problem, please tell us what you were doing when the problem occurred, what you expected to happen and what actually happened.


skip this step