History and Society
European Journal of Social History
Sylvie Contrepois, Martin Petitclerc, Patricia Toucas
Echoing contemporary debates on the importance (or the end?) of work, this section aims both to provide an attempt at a historiography of work and to focus on the debates about how best to locate the place of work within a holistic social history.
If today there is an implicit consensus defining work as ‘activity that is organised, dedicated and remunerated with the final objective of the production of a good or a service’, it is also clear that in wage-earning societies, work is at once both structuring and ambiguous. A factor of production, it is a cost that employers wish to lower and a source of alienation for the employees. An activity recognised as creating social cohesion, it is equally an instrument of social control. Finally, an act of survival, of the organisation of society and of the construction of individuality, it is also viewed as a source of progress and of human achievement.
Beyond a focus on the act of production itself it is therefore necessary to raise questions about the organisation of wage-earning societies. We suggest that they are the product of compromises that shape simultaneously:
- relationships between wage earners and the identity of work collectives as evidenced, for example, by struggles for the recognition of the value of work, or by struggles for work, or by struggles for the recognition of the citizenship rights within the firm.
- large models of production and social organisation. Thus, for example, the Taylorist/Fordist compromise coincided with a model of full employment and was characterised by certain forms of the division of labour and accumulation based on the cycle? ‘mass production? high wages? mass consumption’. Today a new compromise remains to be built. From this perspective, the current debate on the place of work in the reconstruction of a ‘post-Fordist’ solidarity is central. If some have declared the ‘end of work’ a little prematurely, it is certainly the case that the decline of the post-war model of development still requires an examination of the alternative forms of social integration, particularly within the heart of what is called civil society.
- social welfare. The interventions of most actors ? the state, the local government, the unions, the employers, the churches? vary in importance as they do in terms of their ambiguous aims in the elaboration of welfare protection systems, and have contributed to the breaking down of national and even processional-based identities.
- the ways in which collective services (such as transport, health, education, culture and leisure) have, over time, been established and developed. These activities, whose product is essentially realised through interactions between employees and users, often escape traditional forms of rationalisation. Strongly dependent on labour, they particularly pose a problem of finance that our societies still do not know how to resolve. What societal compromises have been imposed over time in Europe? What role, finally, has been given to work? These questions will be at the heart of the contributions proposed for this section, and in any case contributors will be expected to situate their work within the field of European research.
Suggestions on the topic must be sent to: Sylvie.CONTREPOIS@wanadoo.fr.
Introducing the Column 'Images'
This column is devoted to the historical analysis of all contemporary representations (iconography as well as social or literary ones). Its purpose, in the European section of the review, is to allow a better and broader approach of the image, in order to include it in our vision as a social historian. The social historian will be thus able to comprehend the tie between representations and realities in social life, and furthermore to rebuild a precise social experience, which it is the only one to explain. In that way, the historian's work will not consist of joining reality to images as a mean of illustrative document, but of understanding a piece of art (or symbolic work) and a particular time. This column attempts to enhance the image for its original documentary value, which historians too often reject. It includes an article (about 30 000 signs) concerning European matters, with the possibility to be compared to an extra European country. This article encloses introductions of various types of connections of history with image, discussions raised by the column writers (with a possible participation of art historians, cinema historians or others professionals) information, and bibliographies introducing books published in several European countries (as for major books, summaries may be included in the column named after the review title) concerning the links between image and social history (about 10 000 signs).
Suggestions must be addressed to the person responsible for the subject, written in French, English or, failing this, in any other European language as follows : 1) Name, first name, date of birth of the author. Research work carried out, the university you are attached to. A minimum of references are required but the quality of the project and synopsis will be decisive, more than previous achievements (degrees, etc.). Young Master's Degree researchers and doctoral students are welcome ! 2) Synopsis of the paper (one page).
Suggestions on the topic must be sent to:
38 rue des Touranies
91530 Le Val St Germain
Posted: 25 July 2001