The temporalities of labour history

logics-of-historyNotes from the Chapter 9 section “The Temporalities of Labor History”, Sewell WH, Jr (2005) Logics of History: Social theory and social transformation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

p. 273 Temporality of any historical sequence is complex, i.e. ‘combination of many different social processes with varying temporalities’. Three types of temporality:

  1. Trends = ‘directional changes in social relations’, marked by historians as ‘rise’, ‘fall’, ‘decline’, etc.
  2. Routines = ‘practical schemas that reproduce structures’. Institutions are ‘machines for the production and maintenance of routines’.
  3. Events = ‘temporally concentrated sequences of actions that transform structures’

p. 277-278 Capitalist temporarility characterised by ‘uneven development’ (Lenin, Trotsky). Profit-making opportunities huge variation across time and space and as capitalist order itself evolves over time.

p. 280 Case study: Marseilles’ dockworkers, 1814-70. These workers had ‘golden age’ of high wages and political privileges compared to other workers. This can only be explained as ‘an outcome of the specific trends, events, and routines that made their detailed control over work on the docks acceptable to Marseilles’ merchants and municipal authorities’.


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