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Wednesday 24 March 2021 14.00 - 16.00
Y-3 LAB14 Organizing Workers’ Education: from Above and from Below
Van Wijkplaats 2, 002
Networks: Education and Childhood , Labour Chair: Wiktor Marzec
Organizers: Jenny Jansson, Jonas Söderqvist Discussants: -
Marisa De Picker : Striving for the Right to Life, Vocational Training and Work. The Creation of a New Educationally-based Welfare System for Physically Disabled Labourers in Belgium, 1919-1958.
This paper explores the dynamics behind the creation and functioning of the Fonds Spécial en faveur des estropiés et mutilés (°1928), which provided (re-)educational financial support to physically disabled Belgians (war or labour accident victims excluded), until its dissolution in 1958, to reveal how it marked a reimagining of the ... (Show more)
This paper explores the dynamics behind the creation and functioning of the Fonds Spécial en faveur des estropiés et mutilés (°1928), which provided (re-)educational financial support to physically disabled Belgians (war or labour accident victims excluded), until its dissolution in 1958, to reveal how it marked a reimagining of the relation between disability and poverty; the importance of special education; and of the rights and duties of the physically disabled worker.
In the early twentieth century, caring for physically disabled labourers became a responsibility of the State and society in Belgium. Special schools were created to teach them a new job. This process was reinforced by the Great War, after which the nation had to reintegrate tens of thousands war disabled veterans and civilians in the interwar years. Recently, international literature on the aftercare of disabled war victims has been booming. Often these studies have also shown to a lesser degree how these care initiatives later influenced the lives of disabled civilians. For Belgium, however, on both themes few research exists.
Through a dynamic, structured interaction and narrative view on policy, this paper firstly reconstructs the goals and meanings ascribed to the Fonds Spécial by all actors involved in the policymaking to examine how they shaped a new set of benefits and disabled individuals’ experiences of them. The following actors in particular participated in the design: the Belgian ministers of Work, Justice and Public Health, legislators, directors of special schools and the advocacy association Fédération Nationale des Invalides du Travail et de la Paix.
Discussions among legislators and with ministers were found in the minutes of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, Senate and Council of Ministers. Directors’ opinions were collected in medical and labour journals and in L’estropié, the members’ periodical of the Fédération. It gives a unique insight into the lives of persons with congenital or acquired impairments, the benefits they received and the rights for wish they strove.
Secondly, this paper explores the inclusiveness of the Fonds Spécial, in the original law of 1928 and the amendments of 1933 and 1937 by studying the application conditions that had to be fulfilled to receive financial assistance and how these terms shaped disabled Belgians’ working lives. In the analysis, the scope of the fund will also be compared to that of the welfare program designed for disabled war victims between 1918 and 1928 (De Picker, 2019). Lastly, it aims to reveal how the aspect of (re-)education turned out be both a great potential asset and obstacle in the application of the legislation.
De Picker, M. (2019). Nation's compensation for war wounds and work incapacities. The creation of a new welfare system for physically disabled veterans and civilians of the First World War in interwar Belgium, 1918–1928. Alter, 13 (4), 294-307.
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Elina Hakoniemi : Why Worker’s Education – the Establishment of the Worker’s Educational Association of Finland
With the First World War and the Finnish Civil War in 1918, education, and especially people’s education, became a disputed topic also in Finland. Some viewed that the war(s) were a proof of the failure of educating the people, which had caused nothing but violence and chaos. Yet many saw ... (Show more)
With the First World War and the Finnish Civil War in 1918, education, and especially people’s education, became a disputed topic also in Finland. Some viewed that the war(s) were a proof of the failure of educating the people, which had caused nothing but violence and chaos. Yet many saw the conflicts as a sign of the need to offer more education to broader groups of people to avoid violence in the future.
The latter was a guideline for those establishing the Worker’s Educational Association in Finland (Työväen Sivistysliitto, TSL) in 1919. Väinö Voionmaa and other active members of the early TSL held on to their belief in the project of people’s education that had begun in the Nordic countries and developed its own regional forms during the 19th century. Characteristics of this project were the important role of social movements and the union of people’s education and democracy.
But why was a special worker’s education needed, and what was its relationship to other kinds of education and the state?
The proposed paper takes these questions as its starting point in analysing the establishment of the TSL. The paper focuses especially on the ideas about education and worker’s education of those establishing the TSL. The research questions are:
1) What were the ideas about the status and meaning of education in general and worker’s education in particular in the state, the society and the the labour movement (making sense)
2) What was aimed for with worker’s education (making use)
The making sense – making use aspects are constructed in the paper using the idea of the space of experience and horizon of expectation by the German conceptual historian Reinhart Koselleck.
The paper discusses the way education was viewed as an important social question. The right kind of education was seen as what made people and the working people a part of the society, and educated people would make also the society into more cultural and civilized society
Education was given significance also for the goals of the labour movement: they could not be achieved as long as the workers “wondered in intellectual darkness” – workers needed to be educated by the educational labour movement, which was within the TSL viewed as just an important part of the labour movement as the political and the economic movements.
The worker’s education was also given an important role when it came to equality in education. Education was viewed as a privilege of the upper classes of the society, and this current state of affairs was seen as calling for change. When talking about equality, it was stated that the same education was to be offered to all people regardless of their socio-economic status or class at all levels of education. Yet at the same time the idea of a special worker’s education, by the working class people for the working class people, started to develop within the TSL. (Show less)

Jenny Jansson, Jonas Söderqvist : Workers’ Education and the ILO
Educations organized by and for the working class has been an important instrument for the creation of citizenship, these settings have worked as schools of democracy and they have been important means for class formation. However, workers’ education never was a strictly national affair even though most research on workers’ ... (Show more)
Educations organized by and for the working class has been an important instrument for the creation of citizenship, these settings have worked as schools of democracy and they have been important means for class formation. However, workers’ education never was a strictly national affair even though most research on workers’ education has had a national perspective. An important yet unexplored actor arranging workers education is the International Labor Organization, ILO. By making workers’ education a prioritized issue in the 1950s, the ILO became a forum for the dispersion of educational ideas and organization tactics as well as an arena for solidarity across the globe. Together with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, the ILO developed a program for workers’ education, which came to be very influential for spreading workers’ education to developing countries. The ILO thus became a node in a larger network through which information could flow from all directions.
In this paper we explore the ILO’s actions to promote a global workers’ education in the 1950s. By analyzing minutes and reports from the ILO we trace where these ideas came from and how they dispersed across the globe in the 1960s and 1970s. What different types of education was promoted, and supported, by the ILO? How was the concept Workers´ Education understood by the participating parties in this global organization? (Show less)

Jan Kellershohn : The Normativity of the Descriptive. Towards an Epistemology of Mobility
“Mobility” is one of the dominant frames, used for the self-understanding of globalized societies. However, attempts to historicise mobility have been rare, particularly in labour history and in the history of workers’ education. On the backdrop of approaches that have emerged during the last years and which have been analysing ... (Show more)
“Mobility” is one of the dominant frames, used for the self-understanding of globalized societies. However, attempts to historicise mobility have been rare, particularly in labour history and in the history of workers’ education. On the backdrop of approaches that have emerged during the last years and which have been analysing imaginaries of mobility and mobility as governmental technique, the contribution pleads for an entire historicization of this key semantic in the field of labour history. Thus, mobility is not used for a description of past societies but treated as a medium of negotiation of social differences and corresponding anthropologies. How did social scientists, politicians and other actors connect the notion of mobility with representations and ideals of social order and social difference? Which images of the human laid behind attempts of measuring and determining “objectively” the dispositions of mobility? The proposed contribution argues in favour of moving mobility from the position of the explanans towards the role of the explanandum of historical analysis. Via mobility, as a semantic of governmentality, the paper argues, the border of the governable and the possibilities of state-based action has constantly been renegotiated.
First and on a conceptual level, the contribution explains how an approach that aims at highlighting the epistemologies of mobility can be delimited of other approaches from the historical research on mobility. By discussing the history of the rising sociology of mobility of Pitirim A. Sorokin in the interwar period, it will be argued that via the notion of mobility, an instrument of description was popularised whose success was based on its polysemic dimension. It was an every-day-phenomenon – but also social, spatial, professional, “mental” (geistige in German) etc. mobility. At the same time, strategies of simplification and communication of this key notion played an important role, drawing on its anthropological presumptions. Thereby, this concept was deeply rooted in the context of the so-called „nature-nurture-controversy”. In order to take into account the multiplicity of these semantics of movements, the contribution will focus on the description on the measurement of mobility and not on the measurement of mobility itself. Thus, this access to the knowledge of mobility explores the practices of knowledge production, its circulation and its translation but also the construction of social difference, inherent to the notion of mobility.
In order to exemplify this perspective, the contribution sheds light on the population of the West German heavy industrialised Region of the Ruhr as “epistemic thing” of the discourses on structural change and deindustrialisation. Since the interwar period, a variety of observation instruments has been established around this population. They were intended to the “essence” of this labour population determine via the notion of mobility between mobilisation and sedentarisation. These experiments did not end 1945 but continued until the 1970s in the context of the West German labour market reform, entangling criteria of social difference such as class, body and gender.
The core task of a historical perspective on mobility is, following the argument of the article, not the measurement of mobility itself but the study the normative force of this allegedly descriptive notion. In the case of mobility this force continues to exert its influence until today, fuelled by its attractiveness to social and labour history.
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Francoise Laot : Educating Workers’ Wives or Educating Women Workers? Circulation of Ideas and Evolving Discourses in the Late Sixties and Early Seventies France
In the aftermath of the Second World War, many countries were facing major technical and social changes, and the challenges of reconstruction. The needs for a skilled workforce to reinforce the economy were huge. However, there was also a widespread idea that the horrors of war could have been avoided ... (Show more)
In the aftermath of the Second World War, many countries were facing major technical and social changes, and the challenges of reconstruction. The needs for a skilled workforce to reinforce the economy were huge. However, there was also a widespread idea that the horrors of war could have been avoided if people had been better educated and that, consequently, education could foster democracy in a peaceful world. Those economic and ideological goals led the policy makers of many countries to encourage the development of education for adults. This was enhanced at an international level within the framework of transnational or intergovernmental organisations.

Soon, workers education and vocational training activities were increasing everywhere. However, women workers, in many ways, had been forgotten during this development. Thanks to some trade unionist women and feminist activists, awareness of this oblivion began to grow in the sixties within international organisations (international trade unions, ILO and UNESCO notably). But the circulation of ideas from the international level to a local scale had been a long process. The changes in mentalities about the gendered division of work and training would be very slow. In the early seventies, they seemed to have hardly started in France.

On the other hand, in the same period, the education of workers’ wives was a debated topic and gave birth to some realisations. These provisions devoted to women were aimed at preparing them to support their husband in their sometimes long and difficult effort in gaining a better level in knowledge and, consequently, a better professional status, or else, to encourage men registration in training programmes. This paper will present some of this kind of initiative set in the sixties and early seventies France. Thus, in these cases, women were not the target of their own training, but intermediate targets for the development of workers training. It is an old idea to consider that the aim of the education of women should above all (and sometimes only) be to improve that of their children and their husbands. In the discourses of the nineteenth Century that was the norm. Of course, in the 1950’s and 1960’s those ideas were not that clearly expressed, and this ideological basis was mainly hidden, but traces of it remained. The quasi-systematic oblivion of women workers in the development of workers education provisions is one of its indicators, as well as the prominent place given to the family concern in nearly all of what was directed to women, always before all considered wives and mothers.

This paper will analyse the way things progressively began to change in this period from sources of different nature: written sources (comprising official texts about workers education and trade union archives) and audio-visual sources (comprising films and TV reports and documentaries) dealing with vocational training for women’s (return to) work. (Show less)



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