Labour as resource.
Individuals, mobility and economic strategies
in pre-industrial urban societies
Since 1980s, thanks to studies like Steven Kaplan’s and Michael Sonenscher’s ones, our comprehension of the pre-industrial work’s organization has deeply changed. The role of guilds has been put into perspective, and many different kinds of “others” labours, beyond the guilds, have been detected and depicted.
Twenty years later, we wish to come back to this topic, by reviving the debate about work. During the modern age, labour was an intricate and fluctuating reality, more than the dichotomy guilds/free work would let us suppose. As we know, labour can assume many forms : it’s sufficient to think about pluriactivité, seasonal works, geographical and professional mobility, women’ work, etc. By contrast, the practise of the same activity all life long, the transmission of the job from father to son, and patterns of regular apprenticeship do not seem to be very widespread experiences.
This discussion is mostly necessary nowadays, when precarious jobs and processes of delocalisation of the production are the mains features of work’s organization. Men and women are increasingly not concerned with the experience of a life long, permanent job. At the same time, flexibility is presented as the virtue of the XXIth century’s worker, as well as a solution for firms needing to adapt their production to changes and evolutions of the labour market.
Our workshop focus on all kinds of pre-industrial work, in the perspective of labour as resource. For a good while, labour has been represented as an identity and a mark of belonging to a community, a group or a social class. By contrast, we wish to promote a debate on this topic within the field of social history, starting from a definition of work – issued from anthropology - as a primary individuals’ resource.
In pre-industrial societies everyone, men and women – excepted for the aristocracy – was supposed to work, until the end of their lives. People were constantly dealing with impoverishment risk : to face this, a variety of strategies were set up, most of all concerning work, a veritable resource and not only the expression of individuals’ sense of belonging and identity.
The workshop will focus on pre-industrial work as a complexe social resource, of which people is able to make use despite of (and thanks to) different and often conflicting sets of rules, in a variety of cases depending on life’s cycle, social environment and personal goals.
The workshop is organised within the Marie Curie IEF FP7 project « Migrant workers across European Labour markets. Mobility, citizenship and urban resources in the pre-industrial cities (XVIth-XVIIIth century) » (http://sites.google.com/site/migrantworkeurolab/).
It will be take place at Centre Maurice Halbwachs (CNRS/EHESS/ENS), Paris, on February 11-13, 2010 (temporary dates).
Submissions should focus on pre-industrial European urban societies. We invite researchers, doctoral and post doctoral students to submit proposals on the following topics :
- working mobility, both professional and geographical
- informal work
- women’s work
- seasonal and temporary works
- alternatives professional training (not in guilds)
Please send submissions (300 word abstracts and a short CV) and inquiries to Eleonora Canepari and Beatrice Zucca Micheletto at firstname.lastname@example.org
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