Normative order in the workplace. The development of work regulations (Arbeitsordnungen) from the Empire to the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany

Research Project

The research project deals with the emergence and genesis of German work regulations in the metal industry. Their origins lie in the early 19th century, when factory owners laid down requirements and prohibitions to regulate the work process within their companies. Work regulations established the legal basis for industrial relations by defining working conditions and behavioural demands made on the workers. Using the database that is being prepared as part of the project Non-state law of the economy, my research seeks to identify the historical turning points in the development of work regulations from the early 19th to the mid-20th centuries. The analysis will explore changes in the content of the normative texts, but also, importantly, investigate the negotiation processes that preceded or resulted from the work regulations.

First page of the work regulation of the Saxon Copper and Brass Mills F. A. Lange, May 1st 1892, StAC 30046 Amtshauptmannschaft Marienberg, Sig. 3620.

The analysis is carried out in three steps. In the first, the established narratives regarding the key historical moments in the development of work regulations as contained in the secondary literature on co-determination and works constitution (Betriebsverfassung) will be critically evaluated by comparing them to the findings of regional case studies.

In the second step, the database will be analysed to determine peak periods of activity regarding the adoption or modification of work regulations. To what extent did these coincide with periods of increasing state regulation, or can we identify other factors that led or contributed to important changes?
The project’s third step uses qualitative methods of analysis to explore the negotiation processes that led to the introduction or modification of work regulations. For this purpose, selected examples will be investigated in detail, comparisons between companies and regions will be drawn, and actors and institutions involved in the negotiation processes as well as the spaces in which these discourses took place will be identified. Furthermore, a corpus-linguistic analysis will be employed to identify changes in the composition of work regulations.

The research project will reconstruct a multifaceted field of actors and institutions in which the normative order in the workplace was negotiated, codified and sometimes called into question. The aim is to present the discourses, practices, rules, norms and principles of this historical (labour) regime of normativity in a long durée perspective.

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