The Ambiguities of Work: Controlling Knowledge, Controlling Outcomes
A conference at the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 7-8, 2003
From Adam Smith and Karl Marx through Harry Braverman and Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., issues of knowledge and control over economic activity have been central to the fields of labor and business history. The famous aphorism attributed to Big Bill Haywood, “The boss’s brains are under the workman’s cap” captures these tensions, as do recent social science explorations of embedded and tacit knowledge.
We invite papers rooted in historical, organizational, or ethnographic analysis that explore the intersections, struggles, and interrelationships over knowledge of work and control of the workplace. Papers are welcome from scholars based in the humanities, social sciences, or labor and management studies.
How have conflicts over knowledge and power changed? Do tensions over knowledge generated in work performed in non-profit environments (such as public sector employment) have distinctive dynamics?
How do the murky borderlands of labor and management -- the shop foreman, officer supervisor, petty entrepreneur, micro-capitalist, engineer, computer programmer, scientist -- intersect with struggles over knowledge?
How does the mobilization of skill draw on and develop distinct forms of knowledge?
How do policies by governments and the legal system influence control over knowledge?
To what extent do our definitions of skill (both among workers and managers) rest upon their possession of knowledge?
In what environments do conflicts over knowledge embody issues of gender and race? And to what extent can such knowledge be codified, i.e. transferred from those who possess it to those who employ them?
All paper proposals must be received by March 3, 2003 and should consist of a one page proposal and short cv. We prefer proposals submitted as an email attachment in MS WORD and sent to the address below. Alternatively hard copies may be sent by mail to the address below. Funds may be available to defray the travel costs of presenters at the conference.
The conference is jointly sponsored by Labor History and the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society. A special issue of Labor History will publish some of the papers presented at the conference. Proposals are limited to the Western Hemisphere but may focus on any period from the colonial era through the 20th century.
Roger Horowitz, Associate Director
Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society
Hagley Museum & Library
PO Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807
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