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Content archived on 2024-06-18

The production of work. Welfare, labour-market and the disputed boundaries of labour (1880-1938)


Since the late 19th century modern social welfare policy has established social insurances in certain formalized cases of non-work: in case of old age, illness, invalidity, and unemployment. Doing so, it gained importance to control the entitlement to social welfare, national affiliation, willingness or (in-)ability to work. These new regulations of work and non-work also manifested new concepts of work and vocation. Simultaneously and with reference to the new social status of labour and to the new social rights debates on vagrancy, begging and the work-shy relived a new boom. Who should receive help? Who is a threat to the greater public good by refusing labour? Not every way to find income was equally acknowledged as work. There was a variety of activities changeable between work, hunting for a job, non-work, begging and vagrancy. These activities were suspected of being a cover of work-shyness and negative work. Through that they belonged to a disputed sphere at the margins of welfare, labour market and criminality. Within this context unskilled, occasional, seasonal labour were further marginalized and subject of re-definition. The project analyses these disputed boundaries of work. It will focus on Austria 1918-1938, but it aims at an international comparison and will consider relevant developments since the late 19th century, too. The project will study precarious forms of waged labour and non-work within the context of the organisations of labour market, search for employment and job placement. Therefore it is of fundamental importance to include marginal perspectives and practices into the analysis. How did concepts of vocational work and their binding character vary according to age, gender and ethnicity? In which ways were work and non-work defined? How were the distinctions and hierarchies practically implemented? Of particular interest is the tramping of the unemployed and forms of integration, support and control of ramblers being related to it.

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Host institution

EU contribution
€ 1 372 759,70
1010 Wien

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Ostösterreich Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Helmut Schaschl (Dr.)
Principal investigator
Sigrid Wadauer (Dr.)
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (1)