Rethinking the History of Capitalism and the State in Europe from the Perspective of Global Labour History



For a long time European and Western Labour Historians tended to ‚universalize’ their views based on rather specific examples. Recent global historical research on labour, often based on area-based research, has relativized much of this common wisdom, for example the thesis of the outstanding importance of contractually free wage labour as a defining element of capitalism. This paper will mainly focus 1) on another apparently important feature of industrial capitalist societies in Europe now under critical scrutiny from globally oriented labour historians: the so-called „normal working relations“, with a male breadwinner enjoying stable and lifelong occupation. As the paper argues, this constellation, now regarded as being threatened, was never „normal“, not even during the trentes glorieuses after World War II., 2) on the distinction between „formal“ and „informal“ labour and how this highly problematic distinction, originally invented to describe labour relations and practices beyond state regulation shaped thinking about labour in Europe.