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Work, Race, and the Emergence of Radical Right Corporatism in Imperial Germany

Dennis Sweeney

Publication Year: 2009

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Saar river valley was one of the three most productive heavy industrial regions in Germany and one of the main reference points for national debates over the organization of work in large-scale industry. Among Germany's leading opponents of trade unions, Saar employers were revered for their system of factory organization, which was both authoritarian and paternalistic, stressing discipline and punitive measures and seeking to regulate behavior on and off the job. In its repressive and beneficent dimensions, the Saar system provided a model for state labor and welfare policy during much of the 1880s and 1890s. Dennis Sweeney examines the relationship between labor relations in heavy industry and public life in the Saar as a means of tracing some of the wider political-ideological changes of the era. Focusing on the changing discourses, representations, and institutions that gave shape and meaning to factory work and labor conflict in the Saar, Work, Race, and the Emergence of Radical Right Corporatism in Imperial Germany demonstrates the ways in which Saar factory culture and labor relations were constituted in wider fields of public discourse and anchored in the institutions of the local-regional public sphere and the German state. Of particular importance is the gradual transition in the Saar from a paternalistic workplace to a corporatist factory regime, a change that brought with it an authoritarian vision that ultimately converged with core elements in the ideological discourses of the German radical Right, including the National Socialists. This volume will be of interest to scholars and students of labor, industrial organization, ideology and political culture, and the genealogies of Nazism. Dennis Sweeney is Associate Professor of History at the University of Alberta. "The author makes a very insightful argument about the emergence of a kind of scientific racism within the new corporatism, one that brings biopolitics into German industry prior to the rise of National Socialism. This book will be an important contribution to the history of Imperial Germany, and has much potential to appeal to audiences in other fields of history." ---Andrew Zimmerman, George Washington University

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol


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p. vii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. viii-ix

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pp. x-xi

I began this book some years ago in the context of my dissertation research at the University of Michigan, where I learned from the very best and acquired numerous intellectual debts. Above all, I thank my doctoral advisor, Geoff Eley, whose knowledge of German and European history, generosity, patience, sense of humor, and unfailing support...

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pp. 1-20

In late September 1905, a number of leading social reformers and representatives of German heavy industry met in Mannheim at the annual general meeting of the Association for Social Policy (Verein für Sozialpolitik), the preeminent social reform organization in imperial Germany, for a debate over “labor relations in private large-scale industrial...

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1. Company Paternalism in the Industrial Saar

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pp. 21-48

On 24 April 1890, workers of the Wendel coking plant in Hirschbach went on strike in an effort to secure wage increases, changes to the company pension and sickness fund, an eight-hour shift for workers at the blast furnace, and ten-hour shifts for all others. One week later, Dr. Hallwachs, the factory director, signaled his company’s refusal...

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2. The Public Sphere and Notable Politics in the “Kingdom of Stumm”

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pp. 49-77

In an 1891 speech before a gathering of notables celebrating his own twenty-five years of service as mayor, Wilhelm Meyer presented a potted history of his town of Malstatt-Burbach, centering on the development of the Burbach steelworks and the other key factors in the development of the city: namely, the prosperity of the freight...

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3. Challenges to Paternalism: The Battle over the Insubordinate Worker from “New Course” Reform to “Stumm Era” Reaction

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pp. 78-110

The first comprehensive challenges to the “Stumm system” in the Saar were linked to the changing relationship between the state, the public sphere, and the industrial workplace during the 1890s. The decisive moment came when Kaiser Wilhelm II announced a new orientation for state Sozialpolitik. This “New Course” entailed Bismarck’s...

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4. Workers’ Associations, the Struggle over Öffentlichkeit, and the Crisis of Paternalism

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pp. 111-140

The “War between the Patriots” exposed and deepened the fissures within the ruling social coalition and the dominant party-political cartel, but the dramatic expansion of working-class associations and labor organizations after the turn of the century brought the first systematic challenges to paternalist authority in the Saar. During the decade before...

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5. The New Managerial Rationality and the Racialization of Industrial Work

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pp. 141-167

The fundamental reconstitution of Saar public life and the intensifying contestation over the meanings and boundaries of

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6. Corporatist Discourse and Saar Heavy Industry

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pp. 168-199

The new bioracial managerial rationality accompanied a wider transformation in the ideological discourse of employers and industrial culture. In a departure from the familial metaphors and representations long associated with the paternalist factory regime, many Saar industrialists began to reimagine work identities and social relations in...

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Epilogue: Toward a Genealogy of Fascist Corporatism

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pp. 200-218

The emergence of corporatist discourse in the Saar was in some ways distinctive to the region, especially in terms of its relatively systematic theoretical elaboration, but it anticipated the general corporatist turn in the politics of German and European industrialists and radical nationalists in subsequent decades. In Germany, it was redeployed...


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pp. 219-268


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pp. 269-279

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025992
E-ISBN-10: 0472025996
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472116782
Print-ISBN-10: 0472116789

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 1 map
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol
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OCLC Number: 642475455
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Work, Race, and the Emergence of Radical Right Corporatism in Imperial Germany

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Subject Headings

  • Paternalism -- Germany -- History.
  • Employee rights -- Germany -- History.
  • Corporate state -- Germany -- History.
  • Steel industry and trade -- Germany -- Saarland.
  • Iron and steel workers -- Germany -- Saarland.
  • Conservatism -- Germany -- History.
  • Germany -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
  • Industrial relations -- Germany -- History.
  • Authoritarianism -- Germany -- History.
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