Vai alla Homepage del Portale di Ateneo Curriculum Global cultures Second cycle degree/Two year Master in History and Oriental Studies

PREMODERN WORK ETHICS: THE VALUES OF LABOUR, INDUSTRY (AND LEISURE) IN A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE

Gábor Almási (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Neo-Latin Studies)

from 08 March 2022 at 17:00 to 11 March 2022 at 18:45

Aula Specola and ONLINE

This short seminar proposes to reinvestigate the question of the work ethic in Early Modern Europe, placed in a global perspective. Why did labour and industry become important and openly promoted values? Where, when, and how were the different forms of the work ethic promoted in the Early Modern era? This course aims at revisiting the thesis of Weber and the debate it created by explaining the ways in which the values of labour and industry emerged in the Middle Ages and were embraced by the humanists; by presenting the role of the modern states in thinking about labour, occupation and the poor; and by placing the European experience against the background of the scattered information we have on working cultures in early modern Japan, China and India. Fundamental to the approach of the seminar is a philological perspective (an awareness of the rhetorical and discursive construction of our – fundamentally – elite sources) and the denial of a single, comprehensive and Eurocentric narrative. By analysing the rhetorical strategies of the authors, the contexts in which they wrote, their aims and potential audiences, the seminar will attempt to join the social-political and the intellectual dimensions. This is all the more needed, since the rhetoric of labour and industry usually implied some form of social criticism: criticism of the ‘leisured’ aristocrat, the ‘lazy’ monk, the ‘non-working’ priest, the ‘idle’ poor etc. The ethic of hard work was, in fact, never uncontested. What is proposed by the seminar is not so much the study of the actual work ethic of the different working classes but the promotion of the work ethic by the various social groups (especially the learned elites). Although this very short and experimental seminar can hardly do justice to the complexities of the history of the work ethics, it wants to offer some insights into the problems by posing questions and looking for answers.

Division of the classes:

  1. Weber’s theory of the work ethic and its legacy
  2. The medieval work ethics and the humanists
  3. Work ethics and the state
  4. Asian work ethics