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63582-01 - Seminar: Global Labour Studies: Theory and Methodology of Transdisciplinary Research 3 CP

Semester fall semester 2021
Course frequency Once only
Lecturers Raquel Cardeira Varela (, Assessor)
Content Work has a central place in society, politics, culture and the economy. It supports the production of goods and services, it has a pivotal social value and is preponderant in human socialization; it supports access to consumption; it is a source of social rights and political citizenship; qualifies and situates people in society; appears pertinent in
solving environmental and ecological problems. This centrality was shaped in a complex path of struggle for the dignity of the worker and against his alienation, in a balance between the individual and the collective, affirming work as a universal value. There is why alongside with the centrality of work we have to highlight another trend of theoretical and methodological significance in the global labour studies, that is, the social critical theory as a main perspective, over the traditional making of knowledge.

Globalization is now an encompassing phenomenon that has connected commodities, investments and the workforce on a global scale. This process has changed the world qualitatively and acquired a strong new impulse in the last five decades, with massive urbanization and salaried employment of millions of workers in the global South. However, it took place in an uneven and combined movement — linking the same huge global supply chain across different territories, nationalities, regions, cultures, differences in workforce training and qualification, access to transport and services (social wage) and very diverse salary levels and/or living and working conditions (standard/nonstandard employment), in sync with massive population migrations and relocation of companies, around the globe, rendering it hard, for researchers, to assess.

What are the key-factors shaping the current production restructuring on a global scale, as well as its main trends? What is the relation between the workforce and the periphery, the semi-periphery and the centre of the world system? There was a worldwide boost both in the movement of goods (including consumer goods) and the workforce in the world after the 1970s. Nowadays, cities prevail overwhelmingly over the countryside, and the vast majority of the world population works for the market, in its many forms and in quite distinct labour conditions or social relations as a whole.

It is not an easy task to grasp such complex, multidimensional and elusive universe. To understand such convoluted phenomena implications – events and processes, facts or categories, both realities and/or representations – demands us dealing with solid transdisciplinary research in global studies within the context of academic systems. How can we, through scientific theory and methodology, as the transformation of the global world increasingly integrates us all, resist pressures – of all forms and shapes – that leads to methodological nationalism and fragmented, anti-universalists studies?

Main topics of discussion:

Global Labour History – a new “field of attention”1?

The theoretical and conceptual formulas of the founders: Jan Lucassen and Marcel van der Linden2;
Workers of the World3: the critique of Eurocentrism and methodological nationalism: Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-systems theory; the Bielefeld School; ethnological studies (e.g. Papua New Guinea), the theory of uneven and combined development and world history (interconnected histories and its developments)

The importance of the global labour history in times of relocation, neoliberalism and the “just in time” production-model: the links between national and international in the making of modern and contemporary history;

The rejection of the entification and / or essentialization of the universal historical agency (critique of operaismo / workerism, Stakhanovism and the scientific rationalization of work in the capitalist mode of production);

The expanded concept of working class and the unevenly combined forms of wage workers and other historical forms of socially necessary work;

Demarche of theories, programmes and methods – the world-systems and the socalled “Global South

Some recent developments in the field of social historiography or the “New” Global Labour History: º Considerations / Criticisms / Developments

Analysis of the projects: The Collective research model and the Workers Inquiry Research Model.

Methodological nationalism, eurocentrism and a narrow, limited conceptualization of the working classes: the course is based on these three main theoretical and methodological critiques, which were raised in Marcel Van der Linden’s essential contribution to the History of Global Labour and its entanglements. Hence, we will deal with theories and methodologies of the social theory of work and its contribution to understanding the history of globalization and the methodology of global studies. It will seek to show the founding principles of this area of studies, its foundations, developments and criticism. In the second part of the course, we analyze in detail the construction of two projects in global history and transdisciplinary global studies, based on the collective investigation method and the inquiry into the world of work.
Learning objectives - The history of global labour history;
- The relation between global labour history and history of globalization;
- The study of migrations;
- The study of the international division of labour;
- Political and social relations and entanglements between centre, semiperiphery and periphery.
- Analysis and interconnections between forced labour and wage labour; between fixed or protected and contingent work; between industrial, rural and services sector work;
- Collective Research Model;
- Worker’s Inquiries;
- The theory and methodology of transdisciplinary research;
- Why multi, inter, transdisciplinarity is so important to us?
Bibliography ACKERS, P. “Workers of the World? A British Liberal-Pluralist Critique of Marcel van der Linden’s Global Labour History”, International Review of Social History, 2017, 62(2), 253-269.

AUSTIN, Gareth, Labour, Land and Capital: From Slavery to Free Labour in Asante, 1807-1956. Rochester NY, 2005.

ANDERSON, Perry, Portugal and the End of Ultracolonialism (Part 1, 2 and 3), In New left Review, London, nº 15-16-17, 1962.

BARCHIESI, F., “How Far from Africa's Shore? A Response to Marcel van der Linden's Map for Global Labor History”, International Labor and Working-Class History, 2012, 82, 77-84.

BASSO, Pietro, Modern Times, Ancient Hours, Working Lives in the Twenty-first Century, London/New York, Verso, 2003.

COBBLE, Dorothy Sue, The Promise and Peril of the New Global Labor History, International Labor and Working-Class History, No. 82, Fortieth Anniversary Issue (Fall 2012), pp. 99-107.

GEARY, Dick, European Labour. Politics From 1900 to the Depression, New Jersey, Atlantic Highlands, 1991.

LUCASSEN, Jan, Outlines of a History of Labour (IISH Research Papers 51, 2013). Disponível em:

TILLY, Charles, Tilly, Chris, Work under Capitalism, Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1998.

Van der LINDEN, Marcel, M. Ghostbusting or Real Pluralism? A Brief Response to Peter Ackers, International Review of Social History, 62(2), 2017, 271-278.

Van der LINDEN, Marcel, Workers of the World: Essays toward a Global Labor History. Leiden / Boston, Brill, 2008.

Van der LINDEN, Marcel; LUCASSEN, Jan, Prolegomena for a Global Labour History, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, 1999.
Comments The seminar will be taught by Prof Dr Raquel Varela.
Weblink Europainstitut der Universität Basel


Language of instruction English
Use of digital media No specific media used


Interval Weekday Time Room
unregelmässig See individual dates


Date Time Room
Tuesday 21.09.2021 09.00-16.00 Riehenstrasse 154, Hörsaal 00.015
Wednesday 22.09.2021 09.00-16.00 Riehenstrasse 154, Hörsaal 00.015
Modules Doktorat Osteuropäische Geschichte: Empfehlungen (PhD subject: East European History)
European Studies: Recommendations (PhD subject: European Global Studies)
History: Recommendations (PhD subject: History)
Modul: Fields: Governance and Politics (Master's degree program: African Studies)
Modul: Kulturtechnische Dimensionen (Master's degree program: Cultural Techniques)
Modul: Reflexion, Methodik, Praxis (Master's degree program: European History in Global Perspective)
Modul: Transfer: Europa interdisziplinär (Master's degree program: European History in Global Perspective)
Module: Migration, Mobility and Transnationalism (Master's degree program: Changing Societies: Migration – Conflicts – Resources)
Module: The Urban across Disciplines (Master's degree program: Critical Urbanisms)
Vertiefungsmodul Global Europe: Arbeit, Migration und Gesellschaft (Master's Studies: European Global Studies)
Wahlbereich Master Geschichte: Empfehlungen (Master's degree subject: History)
Assessment format continuous assessment
Assessment details Presentation during classes
Assessment registration/deregistration Reg.: course registration; dereg.: not required
Repeat examination no repeat examination
Scale Pass / Fail
Repeated registration no repetition
Responsible faculty University of Basel
Offered by Europainstitut