Jan Lucassen, Outlines of a History of Labour

Online publication, IISH Amsterdam
In 'Outlines of a History of Labour', IISH Honorary Fellow Jan Lucassen provides insights about what we can learn from the new global labour history, using important new research findings to illustrate the ideas.

Jan Lucassen was Research Fellow of the Institute until 2012. In this new online publication in the series IISH Research Papers (no 51), a definition of work is presented. After a survey of the origins of six main types of labour relations, the question is discussed of why and how major shifts in labour relations such as slavery and wage labour occurred in world history. Most shifts in labour relations did not occur simply because of measures taken “from above”. Migrant labour is given special attention.

Recent research indicates that the classical schemas used to understand the course of world history (such as those of Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Max Weber) as well some of their critics (like Karl Polanyi and Alexander Chayanov) contradict the historical facts. Those basically teleological schemas ought therefore to be revised.

The author concludes with a discussion of three important global turning points in contemporary labour relations, which confirm our ignorantia about the movements of history. To provide better knowledge about long-run historical trends in working life, and to write the global history of labour, it is argued, much more empirical and comparative research about the world’s working population is possible and necessary.

http://socialhistory.org/en/news/global-labour-needs-research

http://socialhistory.org/en/publications/outlines-history-labour