The Journal of Social History (vol. 54, issue 2/2020) published an article entitled “From Bondage to Precariousness? New Perspectives on Labor and Social History”, co-authored by Christian G. De Vito (MC Member, Germany), Juliane Schiel (Action Chair) and Matthias van Rossum (MC Member, Netherlands). The article pursues two goals. First, it reviews recent literature calling for a re-vised and extended history of work. Based on that review, it then explores the possibility of a new, empirically based analytical and methodological framework for the study of labour relations and the reinterpretation of contemporary issues, including precariousness, “modern slavery”, social inequality, and dependence.
We contend that viewing labor relations as standardly diverse, coexisting, entangled, and overlapping across history provides an alternative organizing prin- ciple for the research field and is central to the understanding of larger social processes. To this end, we propose a contextualized, interrelational and transepochal approach to labor relations and labor experiences and discuss the potential of three research strategies: the analysis of the historical semantics of labor relations, the detailed study of coercion, and the historical investigation of the relation between precariousness and flexibility.