Posted: April 17, 2013 Filed under: Economy, Politics, Society | Tags: Call for Papers
European Social Science History Conference (Wien, 23-26 April 2014)
Michela Barbot (ENS Cachan, Paris), Fabrice Boudjaaba (CRH-EHESS, Paris), Andrea Caracausi (University of Padua), Luca Mocarelli (Bicocca University, Milan)
General Aim of the Project
Over the last decades the history of property rights and the history of work have been deeply renewed. Recent investigations have challenged the traditional idea that the rise of European capitalism was due to a linear transition from ‘non-private’ to ‘private’ property and from ‘non-commodified’ to ‘commodified’ labour. Different institutional forms coexisted indeed for many centuries, far beyond the Industrial Revolution.
Despite this new evidence, few studies have analysed the historical evolution of work and property together. This absence is regrettable. Work and property were indeed both at the basis of the social inclusion, citizenship rights and other fundamental institutional devices which are usually considered as typical of the economic growth and political modernity. Therefore an analysis that jointly investigates the evolution of the forms of property and work could significantly help to better clarify the historical mechanisms of development and modernization.
Following this perspective several key questions remain still open. They can be summarized as follow: how did ‘work’ and ‘property’ as historical institutions reciprocally interact, and, in turn, which were the socioeconomic implications of this interaction?
This macro-session aims to answer to these questions, investigating the relationship between labour and property using a wide European comparison and a long-term perspective, since the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century. This wide perspective will allow us to evaluate the impact on ownership and work practices of some outstanding legal changes, such as the movement of English enclosures, the 1804 French Civil Code, or the Second Serfdom in the Eastern Europe.
Starting from the main research questions sketched above, we welcome papers articulated around three major research lines, which reflect three different sub-sessions:
Sub-session 1. Communities, households, individuals
In this first research sub-session we encourage papers dealing with the analysis of the role of the various historical property regimes (private, collective, dissociated, etc.) and labour relations (free and unfree labour; reciprocal and wage labour) in the (supposed) process of ‘emancipation’ of individuals from family or communities. More specifically, we would like to understand: (a) If, and how were the forms of work and property based on the model of the domestic household and (b) how did the relations between household systems, property regimes and labour organisations evolve across centuries.
Sub-session 2. Appropriations, dispossession, capabilities
Until recently, the history of the industrial revolution has been seen as a process of dispossession started in Europe since the agricultural enclosures. Following this interpretation, the closure of open fields had two main effects: the spread of a culture of a ‘full owner’ and the transformation of a mass of landless peasants excluded from their communities into an exploited and unskilled working class. In our opinion, this too rigid interpretation could be questioned. We argue that the integration of wage labour in a series of rules and contractual arrangements may have contributed to the development of a set of individual or collective ‘capabilities’ (in line with the interpretation of Amartya Sen), which were able to generate inclusion and improve labour skills rather than create division, separation or exploitation. The two main questions here will be: (a) how did property rights and labour relations help, or dampen, the process of acquisition of skills in the various times and context? (b) Was there a relationship between the fragility/imperfection/uncertainty of property rights and the ‘precariousness’ in labour relations? How did the status of owners interact with the professional status?
Sub-session 3. Embeddedness, evaluation and commodification
A third line of research would test the (‘supposed’) progressive depersonalization and commodification of economic relations in property and labour systems. The basic question can be expressed as follow: the Polanyi’s hypothesis concerning the “disembeddedness” of the economy from society starting back from the Industrial Revolution can be proved comparing and connecting the histories of property and work? The authors are invited to reflect on these points: (1) when, how and why did the work turn into a commodity? (2) Did the emergence of full private property have some effects on contractual conditions and negotiations between employers and employees in labour relations, especially in term of wages fixation and working times?
We welcome both micro-historical studies on single cities or communities and macro-approaches on entire regions and States. From a micro perspective, our aim is to compare urban and rural contexts, in order to understand when and how the so-called ‘modern’ concepts of property and work appeared first. From a macro perspective, we would explore the property and labour ‘divergences’ within Europe, in order to better highlight the role played by these two institutions in the supposed ‘Great Divergence’ between continental Europe and Great Britain, as well as between Eastern and Western Europe. Authors should indicate in which sub-session the paper refers.
Abstracts (100-500 words) and one-half page CV have to be sent by 25 April 2013 to:
For more on ESSHC, visit: http://esshc.socialhistory.org/esshc-vienna-2014
Posted: April 5, 2013 Filed under: Economy, International | Tags: Cyprus
Depositors decimated by bail-in.
Come again? Cypriots discover the debt jubilee? Well yes actually, that is basically how depositors at Cypriot banks have been treated by the Troika, even if the decision to grab up to 9.9% of cash deposits to finance a bail out of the finance sector is being presented as a tax or levy. To understand this we have to view matters from the banks’ perspective: every depositor is lending money to the bank for a fee (paltry interest and illusory security) and this appears on the balance sheet as a liability which in toto in the case of Cypriot banks considerably exceeds assets. Treated as lenders, Cypriot deposit-holders are being asked (ordered) to take a haircut on the debt so that the banks’ balance sheets look a little better.
What we have is a kind of “bail-in”, where individuals already in a rickety credit structure are being asked to take a hit (as opposed to a bail out where a third-party injects fresh funds).
Technically, deposit holders are not simply cancelling up to 9.9% of their loans to the bank, rather they are being asked (ordered) to enter into a debt for equity swap. This means that whatever sums they witness disappearing from their bank accounts will be used to buy shares in a pro rata amount in the bank in question. Looking at the state of a bank like Laiki (Popular) Bank, it is fairly safe to assume that these shares are hardly fair consideration. Junior bondholders are also going to take a haircut, but not the senior bondholders, because these latter might get scared and/or throw a tantrum.[UPDATE 18/3/13: there are suggestions that deposits will now be swapped for bonds guaranteed by the proceeds from gas extraction in Cypriot waters. One wonders why the gas futures, and so the risk, are not being snapped up by others.] Given the almost 10% cut in some cases, the attribution of a financial decimation, where a defeated Roman legion would have to slaughter 1/10th of its contingent, would be appropriate were it not for the fact that in Roman decimation the participants got to elect who they put to the sword. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: April 1, 2013 Filed under: Economy, Politics | Tags: Vio.Me
posted at RoarMag.org
Fighting for a world without unemployment or bosses, the Vio.Me. factory in crisis-ridden Greece starts production under democratic workers’ control.
We are the ones who knead and yet we have no bread,
we are the ones who dig for coal and yet we are cold.
We are the ones who have nothing,
and we are coming to take the world.
~ Tassos Livaditis (Greek poet, 1922-1988)
In the heart of the crisis, the workers of Vio.Me. are aiming for the heart of exploitation and property
With unemployment climbing to 30 percent, workers’ income reaching zero, sick and tired of big words, promises and more taxes, unpaid since May 2011 and currently withholding their labour, with the factory abandoned by the employers, the workers of Vio.Me., by decision of their general assembly, declare their determination not to fall prey to a condition of perpetual unemployment, but instead to struggle to take the factory in their own hands and operate it themselves.
Through a formal proposal dating from October 2011 they have been claiming the establishment of a workers’ cooperative under full workers’ control, demanding legal recognition for their own workers’ cooperative, as well as for all the others to follow. At the same time they have been demanding the money required to put the factory in operation, money that in any case belongs to them, as they are the ones who produce the wealth of society.
The plan that was drawn up met with the indifference of the state and of trade union bureaucracies. But it was received with great enthusiasm by the world of the social movements, which, through the creation of the Open Initiative of Solidarity in Thessaloniki — and afterwards with similar initiatives in many other cities — have been struggling for the past 6 months to spread the message of Vio.Me across society.
Now it’s time for worker´s control of Vio.Me.!
The workers cannot wait any longer for the bankrupt state to fulfil its gratuitous promises of support (even the 1000-euro emergency aid promised by the Ministry of Labour was never approved by the Minister of Finance). It’s time to see the Vio.Me. factory — as well as any other factory that is closing down, going bankrupt or laying off its workers — reopened by its workers, and not by its old or new bosses.
The struggle should not be limited to Vio.Me. In order for it to be victorious, it should be generalized and spread to all the factories and businesses that are closing down, because only through a network of self-managed factories will Vio.Me be able to thrive and light the way towards a different organisation of production and the economy, with no exploitation, inequality or hierarchy.
When factories are closing down one after another, the number of the unemployed in Greece is approaching 2 million and the vast majority of the population is condemned to poverty and misery by the governing coalition of PASOK-ND-DIMAR, which continues the policies of the preceding governments, the demand to operate the factories under workers’ control is the only reasonable response to the disaster that we experience every day, the only answer to unemployment.
For that reason, the struggle of Vio.Me. is everyone’s struggle
We urge all workers, the unemployed and all those who are affected by the crisis to stand by the workers of Vio.Me and support them in their effort to put in practice the belief that workers can make it without bosses! We call on them to participate in a nationwide Struggle and Solidarity Caravan culminating in three days of struggle in Thessaloniki. We urge them to take up the struggle and organize their own fights within their working places, with direct democratic procedures, without bureaucrats.
We invite them to participate in a general political strike in order to oust those who destroy our lives!
Aiming to establish worker’s control over factories and the whole of production and to organize the economy and society that we desire, a society without bosses!
It’s Vio.Me.’s time. Let’s get to work!
Paving the way for workers’ self-management everywhere!
Paving the way for a society without bosses!
Open Initiative of Solidarity and Support
to the struggle of the workers of Vio.Me.
Posted: March 28, 2013 Filed under: Economy, EU, International, Politics, Society | Tags: Costas Douzinas
The more you obey the more you get punished – that’s the troika’s way. But a second spring of discontent is in the air
- by Costas Douzinas guardian.co.uk, Thursday 28 March 2013 11.25 GMT
Demonstrators hold banners as they protest outside the European Union House in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. Photograph: Yiannis Kourtoglou/AFP/Getty Images
The “new world order” announced at the end of the 1980s was the shortest in history. Protest, riots and uprisings erupted all over the world after the 2008 crisis, leading to the Arab spring, the Indignados and Occupy. A former director of operations at MI6, quoted by Paul Mason, called it “a revolutionary wave, like 1848“. Mason agreed: “There are strong parallels – above all with 1848, and with the wave of discontent that preceded 1914.”
Many on the left have been more circumspect. The philosopher Alain Badiou welcomed the Arab spring but did not think it would lead to a “rebirth of history”. For Slavoj Žižek, 2011 was the “year of dreaming dangerously”. A melancholy of the left descended as the protest wave started receding. But on this occasion the pessimism was premature. Resistance against austerity and injustice is again in the air. In Bulgariaand Slovenia, protesters unseated the government. In Italy, the overwhelming anti-austerity vote has shaken the parties committed to the Berlin orthodoxy. Large marches and rallies in Portugal and Spain have undermined governments and policies and a new push for anti-austerity unity is emerging in Britain. In Greece, the parties that brought the country to its knees and are now administering policies causing the well-documented humanitarian catastrophe and rise of fascism are on the brink of exit. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: February 16, 2013 Filed under: Economy, Politics, Society | Tags: debtocracy
By Richard Dienst / 06 July 2011 originally posted at versobooks.com
Richard Dienst is the author of Still Life in Real Time: Theory after Television and The Bonds of Debt, and a co-editor of Reading the Shape of the World. He teaches in the Department of English at Rutgers University. Here, in a special guest post for the Verso blog, Dienst comments on the film Debtocracy.
Soon after the 17 June 1953 workers’ uprising in the DDR, Bertolt Brecht wrote a poem called “The Solution.” He wanted to mock the official response to popular discontent: the Secretary of the Writer’s Union had declared that the people had lost the confidence of the government and that they must earn it back by working twice as hard. “Wouldn’t it be easier,” Brecht suggested with pitch-perfect irony, “for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”
Faced with nationwide general strikes, street riots in Athens, and jittery global markets, it is likely that Greek politicians are not the only ones who wish they could opt for such a solution. There must be presidents and legislators across the EU (not to mention bankers and investors around the world) who wish they could somehow dissolve the Greek people and replace them with a more docile, less demanding bunch, willing to work twice as hard for half as much. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: February 6, 2013 Filed under: Economy, Society | Tags: Greek Crisis, Hunger, poverty
A photographic highlight selected by the picture desk. Louisa Gouliamaki’s image draws our attention to the plight of the Greek people
by Ranjit Dhaliwal guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 6 February 2013
Athenians reach out for a bag of oranges during a free distribution of fruit and vegetables by farmers outside the Agriculture Ministry.
The farmers are staging the event to protest against high production costs, including rising fuel prices
Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/ AFP/Getty Images
Posted: January 15, 2013 Filed under: Economy | Tags: Greek Elites, tax evasion
posted at New York Times January 5, 2013
The tax scandal that reignited in Greece over the holidays had all the makings of a grade-B drama. A former finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, was accused of scrubbing his relatives’ names from a CD containing the identities of thousands of possible Greek tax dodgers. Within hours, his chief political rival tossed him from their party.
Mr. Papaconstantinou, in turn, hinted darkly that he was the victim of a plot masking malfeasance at higher levels.
While the firestorm may have made for political theater of a sort, it has diverted attention from a much bigger problem: Greece, its foreign lenders say, has fallen woefully short of its tax collection targets and is still not moving hard enough to tackle widespread tax evasion — long tolerated, particularly among the country’s richest citizens. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 22, 2012 Filed under: Economy, EU, Politics, Society | Tags: debt, Tsipras
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras says only viable solution to debt crisis is ‘a haircut for Greece and entire southern periphery’
By Helena Smith originally published at The Guardian, Sunday 9 December 2012
Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, head of Syriza party, addresses MPs. He has called for a 1950s-style debt conference. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
Only weeks after the EU and IMF announced a third plan in as many years to rescue Greece from insolvency, the country’s most popular party – its radical left opposition – has called for a European debt conference to “finally” settle a crisis it claims is no nearer to being solved.
In an exclusive interview, Alexis Tsipras, who heads the stridently anti-austerity Syriza, insisted that with the debt drama spreading it was vital that foreign lenders take a leaf out of the history books by dealing with the eurozone’s crisis-hit southern periphery in much the same way that Germany had been treated after the second world war. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 20, 2012 Filed under: Economy, EU | Tags: Paul Krugman
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 © 2012 The New York Times Company
More than 30,000 public sector workers demonstrated in Greece in a strike against deeper austerity cuts that shut down courts, schools and transport, including air traffic. (Photo: Nikos Pilos / The New York Times Syndicate)So, American voters have spoken and set the nation firmly on the path to destruction, according to the evangelist Franklin Graham — God’s wrath for gay marriage, you know. So we can relax a bit on that front and turn our attention back to Europe, which remains, as the economist Tim Duy says, very grim.
“We are now looking at another year of dismal growth in the euro zone,” Mr. Duy wrote in a recent blog post. “This crisis seems to have no end in sight.”
Europe has been out of the spotlight for a while, partly because of the election focus in the United States, but also because the acute financial strains have abated a bit. The European Central Bank’s apparent willingness to buy bonds has combined with what looks like a surprising willingness of peripheral economies to accept even more austerity; the result is smaller bond spreads and less immediate risk of meltdown. But the macroeconomics of austerity and internal devaluation haven’t gotten any better: Unemployment is still rising fast, and at some point the strain will just be too much to take.
And I think it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t just a Greece/Spain issue. If you look at the euro area as a whole, it has in effect been following drastic fiscal austerity with no offset on the monetary side.
On this page, from the International Monetary Fund’s Fiscal Monitor, is one measure of the overall fiscal stance for the euro area, the cyclically adjusted primary surplus (that is, what the budget balance ignoring interest payments would be if the economy weren’t so depressed). That’s a big move toward austerity — 1937 big.
And as I said, not at all offset by anything on the monetary side. And Europeans wonder why the economy is in trouble.
Oh, and just to make things perfect, the European Commission is hitting back at the I.M.F. over austerity and reaffirming its faith in the confidence fairy.
© 2012 The New York Times Company
Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008. Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including “The Return of Depression Economics” (2008) and “The Conscience of a Liberal” (2007).
Copyright 2012 The New York Times.