Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:October 2023–July 2024
Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:»Political Trade Unionism: Industrial Self-Government and the Staging of Class Conflict in Fin-de-siècle Europe«
My book project uncovers a tradition of thought in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe about unions’ role in building a working-class movement. The thinkers Georges Sorel, Max Weber, Eduard Bernstein, Jean Jaurès, and Émile Durkheim stressed unions’ unique political significance as laboratories of a new cooperative culture and institutions that publicly staged morally clarifying conflicts with capitalists. Although these figures are not usually considered distinct theorists of unionism, I reveal new aspects of their thinking that show they were part of a common tradition which I call political trade unionism.
These figures all claimed that unions played a central role in constructing a socialist workers’ movement because they created a shared moral culture and identity among workers rather than simply advanced their material interests. In their view, given increased differentiation within the working-class, workers had different material interests and could not feel a sense of class belonging on that basis alone. They saw unions as providing workers with a moral education that enabled them to practice cooperation in production which generated a sense of class belonging. These theorists also highlighted the ideological and cultural dimension of unionists’ struggle with capitalists. They argued that, by regulating this struggle in particular ways, unionists could change some capitalists’ individualistic self-understanding such that they embraced a common interest in cooperative production.
While these thinkers of course thought that unions improved workers’ material conditions, they argued significant, durable material betterment would only be a consequence of organized workers and capitalists' acquisition of a new collective morality. In this tradition, then, unions were distinctively political institutions that made essential contributions to society’s moral and economic progress. Amid renewed labor organizing and activism, examining this tradition offers guidance on how unions can help build a working-class political movement and productively conduct industrial conflict within the capitalist system. (Peter Giraudo)
Research partner:Peter Giraudo follows the invitation of Rainer Forst, Professor of Political theory at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, and the Justitia Centre for Advanced Studies funded by the Alfons and Gertrud Kassel Foundation.
Scholarly profile of Peter Giraudo Peter Giraudo received his PhD in Political Theory at Princeton University, in summer 2023. The title of his dissertation is Political Trade Unionism: Industrial Citizenship and the Regulation of Social Conflict in European Thought, 1890–1919. Before starting his doctoral program, he has studied European History at Columbia University.
Please find more information about Peter Giraudo here.
Main areas of research:Nineteenth- and twentieth-century European political thought; the history of sociology and social theory; democratic theory
- »The Natural Leader of the Proletariat: Eduard Bernstein on Trade Unions and the Path to Socialist Cooperation«, in: History of European Ideas (forthcoming).