Volume 55 part 3 (December 2010)


Fernando Teixeira da Silva. The Brazilian and Italian Labor Courts: comparative notes
This article compares the Brazilian Labor Court, created in 1939, and the Italian Magistratura del Lavoro, instituted in 1926 by the government of Mussolini, to "harmonize" the conflicts between labor and capital through judicial means. The text problematizes the Brazilian intellectual tradition which sees the Labor Court either as a typically national product or as the transcription of an international model. It demonstrates that current polemics keep on fixed within the ambit of the "national problem" such as it was formulated in the 1930s. The approach adopted does not exclusively concentrate on the formal apparatus of juridical structure, but interrogate its functioning over time into different historical conjunctures. The main goal of the article is understand the Labor Justice as an institutional recourse historically appropriated by different subjects, in particular by workers, who gave them differentiated political meanings.

Erik Green. State-led Agricultural Intensification and Rural Labour Relations: The case of Lilongwe Land Development Program in Malawi, 1968-1981
This article deals with cash crop production and its impact on labour relations in postcolonial African peasant agriculture. The focus is on the Lilongwe Land Development Programme (1968-1981) in Malawi. The aim of the programme was to enable African farmers to increase yields and make them shift from the cultivation of tobacco and local maize to groundnuts and high-yielding varieties of maize. The programme failed to meet its goals, because of contradictory forces set in motion by the programme itself. The LLDP enabled a larger segment of farmers to engage in commercial agriculture, which caused a decline in supplies of local labourers ready to be employed on a casual or permanent basis. Increased commercial production was thus accompanied by a de-commercialization of labour relations, which hampered the scope for better-off farmers to increase yields by employing additional labourers. By using both written and oral sources, this article thus provides an empirical case that questions the conventional view that increased cash crop production in twentieth-century rural Africa was accompanied by a commercialization of labour relations. It concludes that the history of rural labour relations cannot be grasped by simple linear models of historical change, but requires an understanding of local contexts, with a focus on farming systems and factors that determine the local supply of and demand for labour.

Kathryn J. Oberdeck. Of Tubs and Toil: Kohler Workers in an Empire of Hygiene, 1920-2000
This paper examines contests over the intimate and global geographies of domestic hygiene advanced by the Kohler Company, a plumbing-ware manufacturer that promoted "American" standards living in its welfare-capitalist industrial village of Kohler, Wisconsin. Drawing from the approaches of labor history, cultural history and critical geography, it demonstrates the value of combining these methodologies. The perspectives of Kohler workers on "American" living standards, it reveals, complicate cultural histories that cast such workers as uncritical audiences for imperializing claims about the superiority of American sanitation. The paper argues that workers who struggled to unionize the Kohler plant challenged company definitions of "American" standards and generated alternative, laborite maps of domestic hygiene and the labor associated with it among local immigrant workers and laborers elsewhere in the world. It considers the legacy of those maps in the context of the company's changing global networks of production and consumption.

Rüdiger Hachtmann. Fordism and Unfree Labor: Aspects of the Work Deployment of Concentration Camp Prisoners in German Industry between 1941 and 1944
This article examines the relationship between Fordism and unfree labor in Nazi Germany. Fordism is understood here as a form of workplace rationalization (especially assembly line production), but also as a "technology of domination" and an "exploitation innovation". In contrast to the Weimar Republic, Fordism was established in broad sectors of German industry under Nazi rule in the form of "war Fordism". In order to examine the connections between the specific historical variants of these two apparently contradictory production regimes - Fordism and forced labor - the article focuses on the "labor deployment" of the most severely terrorized and brutalized group of laborers in Nazi Germany: concentration camp prisoners. Surveying the existing literature, it explores the compatibilities and tensions between Fordism and the deployments of concentration camp prisoners in German industry. In closing, several theses are presented on how Fordism between 1941 and 1944 can be classified within an entire history of Fordism in Germany.