Josef Ehmer: „Traditionelle” Handwerker und ihre Zünfte als starke Akteure in der neuzeitlichen Expansion von Warenmärkten und Arbeitsmärkten: Forschungsansätze und Resultate . [Abstract] [Article in German]
The original text of this reprint begins with a comprehensive discussion of the surprisingly intense scholarly discussions and political debates about the history and “essence” of artisans and guilds that took place across Europe from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. At the core of these discussions was the construction of a dichotomy: Be it for adulatory or critical reasons, artisans and guilds were portrayed as representatives of tradition, equality, corporative ideals, a community spirit, and solidarity, and, thus, as the antithesis of modernity, innovation, competition, liberalism, social inequality, individualism, and other dimensions of the modern economy and society. This dichotomic matrix was shared by conservatives and liberals alike, e.g., by Marx, Engels, and later Marxists, and by nineteenth- and twentieth-century economists and historians across the political spectrum. This first part of the original chapter has been omitted for spatial reasons. The very aim of the two parts of the chapter reprinted here is to question the dichotomic matrix; to engage with it in light of the results of recent research; and to integrate artisans and guilds into the history of the evolution of early modern market economies and, thus, into the history of capitalism. This is accomplished, first, by reviewing a wide range of recent scholarly literature from various parts of Europe that contradicts previous narratives and, second, by presenting exemplary research results from Austrian sources. Both approaches demonstrate the following: that guilds were less a medieval than an early modern institution; that they were characterised by strong internal hierarchies between very poor and very rich members; that artisans were engaged in competition within and between guilds as well as between rural and urban producers (even when they belonged to the same provincial guild); that there were not only antagonistic but also symbiotic relations between guild masters, freelancers, and completely illegal artisans; and that the borders between production and merchandising were very weak.
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