Work in a Modern Society

Work in a Modern Society: The German Historical Experience in Comparative Perspective

Edited by Jürgen Kocka
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    Work in a Modern Society
    Book Description:

    Whereas the history of workers and labor movements has been widely researched, the history of work has been rather neglected by comparison. This volume offers original contributions that deal with cultural, social and theoretical aspects of the history of work in modern Europe, including the relations between gender and work, working and soldiering, work and trust, constructions and practices. The volume focuses on Germany but also places the case studies in a broader European context. It thus offers an insight into social and cultural history as practiced by German-speaking scholars today but also introduces the reader to ongoing research in this field.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-797-6
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. German Historical Perspectives Editorial Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Timothy Garton Ash, Jürgen Kocka, Gerhard A. Ritter, Nicholas Stargardt and Margit Szöllösi-Janze
  4. 1 Work as a Problem in European History
    (pp. 1-16)
    Jürgen Kocka

    This is a broad topic for a historian: treating it within a short essay means being both very general and very selective. Why such a broad topic?

    First, it allows us to bring together specialists from different fields whose contributions may appear in a new light if seen together.¹ Second, by dealing with the history of work in a general way, historians can relate to ongoing debates of the present time. In several European countries, certainly in Germany, mass unemployment and the changing nature of work under the impact of globalization and computerization have fuelled interesting debates about access to...

  5. 2 Discourses on Work and Labour in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Germany
    (pp. 17-36)
    Josef Ehmer

    Historians long placed the beginning of the ‘modern age’ at about 1500 and viewed the Reformation in particular as the turning point towards a Western work ethic and increased esteem for work, including manual labour.¹ In the past twenty years or so, however, the perspective has changed, and medieval roots of the modern appreciation for work have been continuously re-evaluated.² Patricia Ranft, one of the advocates of this new paradigm, wrote in a recent book: ‘As the late Middle Ages descends upon Western history, medieval society is a society that advocates and respects work. Work saves the individual; work saves...

  6. 3 Beginnings of the Anthropology of Work: Nineteenth-Century Social Scientists and Their Influence on Ethnography
    (pp. 37-54)
    Gerd Spittler

    When we hear of the ‘anthropology of work’, most of us think first of non-industrial, non-capitalist work, as it was and is studied by social anthropologists. According to this pattern, the recently publishedInternational Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciencesincludes four articles on work, devoted to the historical, sociological and anthropological aspects. I wrote the anthropological article, which basically refers to the anthropological study of non-industrial work.¹ For many years now an anthropological research group at Bayreuth University has done extensive fieldwork in Africa, studying the work of peasants, herdsmen, artisans, factory workers and service employees.² Despite the...

  7. 4 The Vision(s) of Work in the Nineteenth-Century German Labour Movement
    (pp. 55-72)
    Thomas Welskopp

    If Karl Marx had had his way and if the German labour movement had acted as a faithful and dedicated follower of his theory, the concept of ‘work’ disseminated in the publications and rallies of nineteenth-century socialists in Germany would have been of a decidedly unemphatic, almost ascetic character. For Marx, ‘work’ was not conceivable independently of the prevailing social relations of production, which, in turn, marked specific formations of society at different stages in the history of mankind. Therefore, ‘work’, as an abstract notion with an ostensibly inherent value, was for Marx nothing more than an ideological phrase representing...

  8. 5 Work in Gender, Gender in Work: The German Case in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 73-92)
    Karin Hausen

    Making a distinction between men and women remains the foundation and precondition for the ordering of gender relations, work and thus of societies more generally. Everyday work and the distribution of certain tasks, as well as the value placed upon them, visibly and tangibly lend the appearance of naturalness to social and cultural frameworks. Manifold images, speech and texts additionally mark and underscore the boundaries between desirable and undesirable, normal and abnormal interactions between work and gender. Such discursive boundary settings provide important assurances as long as people, both individually and in groups, repeatedly face the need to adapt the...

  9. 6 Trust as Work
    (pp. 93-108)
    Ute Frevert

    This article is about trust and confidence, but also about work and labour. At first glance, the relation may not seem self-evident. We normally tend to dissociate trust and work by defining trust as an irrational emotion and by stripping work of its emotional and cultural context. This kind of reductionism, however, runs counter to scholarly opinion. As Jürgen Kocka has argued convincingly, the concept of work historically has much broader ramifications than the ones implicit in the modern notion of paid, market-related employment. Even activities like sports and war, consumption and play contain elements of work (generally defined as...

  10. 7 Soldiering and Working: Almost the Same? Reviewing Practices in Industry and the Military in Twentieth-Century Contexts
    (pp. 109-130)
    Alf Lüdtke

    The infantry fired steadily and stolidly, without hurry or excitement, for the enemy were far away and the officers careful. Besides, the soldiers were interested in the work and took great pains. But presently the mere physical act became tedious. The tiny figures seen over the slide of the back-sight seemed a little larger but also fewer at each successive volley. The rifles grew hot – so hot that they had to be changed for those of the reserve companies. The Maxim guns exhausted all the water in their jackets, and several had to be refreshed from the water-bottles of...

  11. 8 Forced Labour in the Second World War: The German Case and Responsibility
    (pp. 131-152)
    Klaus Tenfelde

    In 1912 Adolf Levenstein published the results of an opinion poll among German workers that, to my knowledge, must be considered the first systematic survey of the perception of work among workers themselves.¹ This survey relied on questionnaires sent to miners and textile and metal workers living in different regions of the Reich and utilized some five thousand responses, solely from male workers of different age groups. The survey was undertaken between 1907 and 1911, and the author clearly relates the difficulties he faced during the procedure. It must be mentioned that, first, he made use of trade union contacts,...

  12. 9 Work, Max Weber, Confucianism: The Confucian Ethic and the Spirit of Japanese Capitalism
    (pp. 153-168)
    Sebastian Conrad

    Of the numerous volumes on world history produced in the last few years, David Landes’s account is surely both the best-known, as well as the most economically successful. In hisThe Wealth and Poverty of Nations, he portrays the last thousand years of history from a decidedly Eurocentric perspective. This he not only openly acknowledges but propagates offensively: ‘Over the thousand and more years of this process that most people look upon as progress, the key factor – the driving force – has been Western civilization and its dissemination.’¹ Landes explicitly rejects all forms of political correctness and sees only...

  13. 10 What is Global Labour History Good For?
    (pp. 169-182)
    Andreas Eckert

    World history and global history have recently become very popular fields of historiography. Although there is a lively and multifaceted debate about these fields, it is still far from clear what ‘global history’ exactly means. There is a common consensus that global history is not the history of everything everywhere. The field’s approach does not attempt to engage in an additive-encyclopaedic claim, nor does it represent a simple extension of national history. In general, global history is concerned with relationships and transactions in a spatial dimension. These relationships can be between regions or nations. Yet these regions, as migration history...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-214)
  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 215-218)
  16. Index
    (pp. 219-222)