Thierry Ehrmann

Engelske abstracts


Jürgen Kocka: More Burden than Pleasure – Work and Work Society in European History

The article traces the emergence of what has traditionally been called the ‘modern society of work’. It does so while emphasizing how attitudes to work have always been characterized by two opposing views: On the one hand, work has been considered a positive and creative force, as well as a source of identity, progress and pride. On the other hand, work has also been viewed as involving pain, agony and relations of domination and coercion. Hence, work has traditionally been a many sided concept referring to complex social practices. With the development of capitalism, industrialization and the expansion of waged labour, work, however, was increasingly reduced to paid employment. The so-called ‘modern work society’ was and is a society in which paid employment plays a significant role. Today, this society and its dominant concept of work is being challenged from economic, social and technological developments and changes.

Keywords: Labour; Work; Wage Labour; Modern Society of Work; Industrialization

Jens Krasilnikoff: Work, Gender and Power in Ancient Greece – Examples from Athens in the Classical Period

This article asks how different forms of work were associated with varying forms of status, class and gender in Classical Athens (o. 500 – 300 B.C.). Moreover, the author seeks to clarify how the male citizen collective in particular controlled society by enforcement of general ideas about what types of work were suitable for citizens, metics (free foreigners) and slaves alike. Also, the article challenges the ideal (and male articulated) work discourse allocating farming, politics and warfare to male citizens, whereas female citizens confined to oversee the household and perform work to do with processing of food and wool.

Keywords: Labor; Gender; Oikos; Polis; Citizen

Eva Krause Jørgensen: Then go to your work with joy – Sociality and Sacramentality in Martin Luther’s Teaching of the Calling

The article investigates Martin Luther’s teaching of the calling in a social perspective. In the tradition following the pioneering work of Max Weber, the Reformation has often been interpreted a steppingstone towards processes of disenchantment, secularization and rationalization. In recent years, a growing body of literature has argued that this tradition overlooks crucial elements of reformation spirituality such as sacramentality, sociality and the affirmation of ordinary life. With his conceptualization of work as a calling, Luther elevated and sanctified the everyday life and activities as a central component of the Christian life and the constitution of society. Here we might find the seed for the exceptionally high value ascribed to work in contemporary, Lutheran Nordic societies.

Keywords: Martin Luther; the Reformation; Calling; Sociality; Sacramentality

Esben Bøgh Sørensen: Work as Improvement – Husbandry, Housekeeping and Capitalism in 16th and 17th Century England

This article traces the development of a new attitude to work as improvement in early modern England. By focusing on agricultural manuals from the period, the author shows how the attitude to work as improvement developed as a response by yeomen and gentleman farmers to their increasing subjection to market imperatives. In contrast to the ethics of housekeeping, which stressed the good maintenance and ordering of the ‘house’ in the broadest sense as the primary aim of social and economic activities, the new idea of improvement focused on activities directed at the market. This idea established new distinctions between good and bad work, and it created new criteria for valorizing different types of agricultural activities. The constant drive to measure the value of agricultural work in terms of market price, and to continually raise productivity and efficiency and make use of the latest techniques and inventions became pivotal for these agricultural writers. The idea of work as improvement had a wide range of new moral, cultural and political dimensions, all of which consolidated into a more coherent ideology of improvement by the late 16th century.

Keywords: Early Modern England; Agrarian Capitalism; Improvement; Husbandry; Housekeeping

Søren Mau: From Essence to Metabolism – Marx’s Concepts of Work

The Marxist tradition is marked by a persistent conflict about the analytical as well as tactical use of the concept of labour: Is labour a trans-historical necessity, or is it rather a specific capitalist phenomenon that should be abolished along with capital and the state? The article shows how these theoretical and tactical conflicts can be traced back to certain ambiguities in the writings of Marx, taken as a whole. Furthermore, the article argues that Marx’s use of the concept can be divided into three periods: (I) In 1844, the concept of labour was a anthropological notion designating the trans-historical essence of the human being and occupying an explanatory and critical function in the critique of bourgeois society. (II) In 1845-48, the trans-historical use of the concept disappears and gives way to a distinction between activity and labour. The latter is now conceptualised as something specific to capitalism. (III) From 1857 onwards, Marx develops a new trans-historical concept of labour, inspired by the concept of metabolism. However, this concept does not have the explanatory and critical function that the early concept of labour had.

Keywords: Labour; Work; Marx; Metabolism; Humanism

Margit Bech Vilstrup: The Struggle for the Workers – Political Conceptualizations of ‘The Worker’, 1750-2015

Although ‘the worker’ has been one of the key concepts in political language since the second half of the 19th century only few studies have been made of the historical shifts in its definition and semantic demarcation. Inspired by present day semantic shifts in the meaning and use of ‘the worker’ in Danish political debate, this article examines the long history of the politicization of the concept. With inspiration from Reinhart Kosellecks Begrieffsgeschichte, the article analyzes how ‘the worker’ functions as both an indicator of and a factor in the creation of ‘the modern’. From being a concept used purely as a descriptive category for the wageworker in manual production in the pre-1790-era it changes into a category defining the workers as a social group with a revolutionary potential. The article argues that the concept plays a key role in political parties’ different strategies of mobilization and legitimization, and that since the 1970s a definitive change can be identified. A change that embodies what Francois Hartog has described as a transition from the future-oriented to the presentist regime.

Keywords: Conceptualizing Labour; Mobilizing the Workers; Labour History; Language and Politics; Reinhart Koselleck

Andreas Beck Holm: The Great Spirit or the Little Ghosts? On the Legitimizing Narratives of Capitalism

Boltanski and Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism is a monumental work that diagnoses the nature of contemporary network capitalism and gives a compelling statement of a new ideology that sustains and legitimizes capitalism as an economic system. This paper, however, aims to raise a number of objections to Boltanski and Chiapello’s approach. It questions partly whether the ideology they identify is actually capable of legitimizing contemporary capitalism, partly whether it may not be more constructive to abandon the search for one ‘spirit of capitalism’ in favor of identifying a system of different ideologies that all serve as legitimizing narratives. The paper identifies business ethics as one such ideology and argues that it actually outperforms the one identified by Boltanski and Chiapello according to the criteria defined by the authors themselves. Finally, it is argued that the different ideologies, despite their discrepancies, share one defining characteristic: They are all incapable of making a case for capitalism as an economic system that guarantees the contemporary workforce social security, and that reflects the reality of capitalist society today.

Keywords: New Spirit of Capitalism; Ideology; Business Ethics; Freedom; Capitalism

Bjørn Rabjerg: Who is the Liberator? Idealism and Realism – Perspectives on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in Løgstrup and Heidegger

When Danish theologian and philosopher K E. Løgstrup (1905-81) followed Heidegger’s lectures On the Essence of Truth in 1933-34, he encountered an interpretation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave that influenced his view on the dangers of idealism, thus shaping what became a central theme in his works, the importance of realism and to focus on what is concrete. This article explores two main areas: (1) Løgstrup’s concept of understanding and its relation to disclosure and revelation (both in a philosophical and theological sense), and (2) Heidegger’s interpretation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – as found in Løgstrup’s own notes in his posthumous manuscripts – and this interpretation’s link to Nazism. To Løgstrup, philosophy and theology must concern itself with life inside the cave, the reality of our human existence, because doctrines concerning life outside the cave lead to the dangers of idealism.

Keywords: Plato; Løgstrup; Heidegger; Idealism; Realism