Dettaglio notizia

Self-Management in Action: Postdam, 24-25 settembre

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Il ZZF Potsdam (Centre for Contemporary History di Potsdam), con il supporto del Stiftung Bildung und Wissenschaft, organizza un convegno sul cooperativismo in Europa dopo il 1945 ponendosi la domanda di se e come l'esperienza delle cooperative abbia davvero modificato i metodi tradizionali del fare impresa. Il numero dei partecipanti è limitato: chi fosse interessato deve mandare una mail entro il 18 settembre alla dottoressa Anne Sudrow (ZZF Potsdam):

Qui la descrizione dell'iniziativa, di seguito il programma (anche in pdf).

Conference: "Self-Management in Action: Worker Co-operatives and Employee-Owned Enterprises in Western Europe after 1945"

The United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives. As a consequence, in European business history, too, co-operatives attracted considerable attention. New studies concentrated on the distinctive characteristics of co-operatively organized and employee-owned enterprises. They emphasized that there had been an 'alternative' in principle to privately owned firms and to market oriented capitalism in Western countries throughout the 20th century.

The majority of these studies - mostly written by economists rather than historians - suggest that co-operatives were a type of business less exposed to the aggressive sides of capitalism, to personal greed or mismanagement. According to this view they also developed different growth-related strategies and attitudes towards risk capital and therefore a greater resilience to recent global crises. In the second half of the 20th century they often can be regarded as 'quasi-enterprises' - insofar as making a profit was neither the prime nor the sole motive for running these businesses. And precisely because of these peculiarities doubt has been cast on the prospects of co-operatives performing well in a market economy.

In the wake of an increasing interest in the history of consumption and in the mediating actors between consumers and producers in the market economies, studies on consumer co-operatives and their impact on consumer choice and consumption patterns followed. It has been shown that consumer co-operatives often pursued innovative approaches to consumer politics. Producer co-operatives and democratically managed enterprises, however, suffered from the 'death of the production paradigm' in economic and social history. They have been thoroughly neglected by historical research in the recent past. A guiding question for this conference follows the general idea of Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, namely how the pioneers of these 'alternative' enterprises radically challenged the conventional methods of 'doing business' in Western European countries during the 20th century. This is a question which relates to both their practices and their new social and economic values. Research into this largely disregarded and empirically diverse field can connect aspects of the business history of mostly small and medium sized industrial firms with a culturally informed history of production. Such research can investigate the history of the new social movements and their social visions with regard to their particular economic forms of political practice.

It is this particular type of businesses in the secondary, industrial sector and their history that the conference will focus on: factories and workshops 'under workers' control' or 'producer co-operatives', as they were mostly called until the 1970s. During the 1970s this model of employee-control and employee-ownership came to be known throughout Europe under the term of 'self-management' ('Selbstverwaltung', 'autogestion', etc.) That the businesses are owned and controlled by the people who work in them seem the key features that distinguish them from conventional firms. But rather than seeing these two factors as already accomplished facts and a necessary precondition for the case studies, it is necessary - in a historical perspective - to research the processes of achieving and obtaining this employee-ownership/employee-<wbr></wbr>control as processes of empowerment (growing democratic access/individual emancipation) on the one hand - and disempowerment (the loss of access/individual emancipation) on the other. Should self-managed companies/workers' co-operatives be analysed as 'projects' rather than 'enterprises'? Philip Scranton and Patrick Fridenson characterised this as a less durable type of economic organisation with uncertain managerial hierarchies, complex authority relations and improvised rule sets, which often entered unfamiliar terrain with unpredictable outcomes.

The conference aims to analyse the processes, ideas, chances and problems of industrial self-management from a historical perspective through concrete empirical case studies. It seeks to explore how collectively owned and co-operatively run businesses organized their day-to-day economic and social activities. Did these practices really differ from conventional enterprises? How did the businesses/projects operate within the larger market environment? Can we discern criteria of the 'success' and 'failure' of such projects - with respect to the social, the cultural, the political and the economic aims of the historical actors themselves? Why was self-management - in purely quantitative terms - so prevalent in some Western European countries, but not in others? Are there common experiences of all collective ownership and self-managed enterprises throughout Western Europe? Can there be a transnational history of European self-management?



Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZZF Potsdam), Seminar Room (Ground Floor), Am Neuen Markt 9d, 14467 Potsdam, Germany


Thursday, 24th September 2015

Welcome and Introduction

Panel 1: Southern Europe since 1945
(Chair: Christopher Neumaier)
- Tito Menzani, University of Bologna: «We have no Master, except the Generation of the Future». Worker Cooperatives in Italy (1945-2015): a Critical Analysis
- Fernando Molina, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao: Regarding Arizmendiarrieta: The Social History of Mondragon through the Looking-Glass of the 'Founding Father'

Coffee break

Panel 2: Eastern European Precedents
(Chair: Matthias Judt)
- Maciej Tyminski, University of Warsaw: Rise and Fall of Self-Government Enterprises in Poland (1956-1958). The Case of the Cable Factory in Ozarów Mazowiecki
- Josip Mihaljevic, Croatian Institute of History, Zagreb: Yugoslav Self-Management in Practice (1965-1974). A Case Study of the Gredelj Rolling Stock Factory

Coffee break

Panel 3: French Experiences
(Chair: Anne Sudrow)
- Frank Georgi, Université Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne: Boimondau. The Rise and Fall of a «Community of Work» in post-war France as seen by sociologist Albert Meister
- Jens Beckmann, Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam: Work differently, decide differently? When Unionists became Entrepreneurs. LIP in Besançon, France, after 1976

Conference dinner


Friday, 25th September 2015

Panel 4: Worker Co-operatives in Britain
(Chair: Max Hertzberg)
- Jonathan Mosse, University of Southampton: Women in Control: Revisiting Fakenham Enterprises 1972-1977
- Anne Sudrow, Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam: State Influence on the Shop Floor. The Meriden Motorcycle Co-operative in Coventry and British Labour and Conservative Governments (1974-1984)
- Chris Cornforth, Open University Milton Keynes: The Work of the «Co-operatives Research Unit» at the Open University, Milton Keynes: A Review

11.00-11.30Coffee break 

Panel 5: Central European Case Studies
(Chair: Jens Beckmann)
- Christiane Mende, Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam: Fragility and Resilience of Workers' Self-Management in the Süßmuth Glass Works, West Germany (1969-89)
- Susanne Kokel, University of Marburg:Strategies for Acceptance? Management Practices within the Moravian Church

Lunch break

Panel 6: Researching Current Developments
(Chair: Rüdiger Graf)
- Hanna Moilanen, University of Eastern Finland: Worker Co-operatives in Finland - Means of Managing a Precarious Working Life
- Juan Pablo Hudson, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina:Companies Recovered by Workers in Argentina: a Balance of 15 years of Self-Management from two Case Studies in Rosario City

Final discussion