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The Lifework of a Labor Historian pdf download

Book Title The Lifework Of A Labor Historian
Book AuthorKarin Hofmeester
Total Pages260
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The Lifework of a Labor Historian – Essays in Honor of Marcel van der Linden

Edited by Ulbe Bosma – Karin Hofmeester


This collection of essays has been compiled on the occasion of Marcel van der Linden’s sixty-sixth birthday, marking his official retirement from the International Institute of Social History (iish) in Amsterdam, and celebrating a new phase in his academic life. The volume reflects the variety of topics that characterize his work and the golden thread that connects them.

It shows how his writings on Marxist theory, capitalism, the working classes, the renewal of labour history as a discipline—including all forms of work, labour relations, and movements—and the study of labour on a global scale evolved over the years, and how they have inspired many colleagues all over the world. At the same time, the articles reveal Marcel’s sources of inspiration: The colleagues and PhD students he worked with, and the insights and methodological approaches that disciplines such as anthropology, ethnology, and area studies offered him.

“We know only a single science, the science of history.”1

Marcel van der Linden was born in Hittfeld near Hamburg in 1952 into a Dutch-German family and grew up in Weert (Limburg province) where he attended the Gymnasium. At the age of 16, he started to develop political ideas diametrically opposed to those of his parents.

In 1971 he began studying mathematics, physics, and astronomy at Utrecht University, inspired by the famous astronomer and Marxist theorist, Anton Pannekoek. He became a very active member of the student movement, and during his second year decided to switch to sociology, as this had more societal impact than the study of the stars.

As one of the co-founders of the Socialist Sociologist Union (Socialis-tische Sociologen Bond), he developed close ties to the Dutch section of the Fourth International and its charismatic thinker Ernest Mandel, who became his tutor.2 Years of intense reading and debating followed, and predominantly Marxist theory was combined with journalistic political activism.

Marcel van der Linden left the Trotskyite political movement in 1980, but theoretical considerations about the foundations and conceptions of socialist thinking would remain an important part of his intellectual life. In 1978, he graduated cum laude in sociology, worked as an economics teacher at two high schools for three years, and then decided it was time for a change. He began thinking about PhD research and met his future life partner Alice Mul during a meeting of an anti-fascist action committee in Utrecht.

Western Marxism and the Soviet Union was the topic of his PhD research, which he carried out “in his spare time” as he states in his own introduction. Frits de Jong Edz. was his supervisor and an impressive list of people—including Ernest Mandel— acted as commentators and sparring partners. In 1989 he received his PhD cum laude at the University of Amsterdam.

In the meantime, he had joined the iish in 1983 and became the editorial advisor for the International Review of Social History (Irish), the academic journal of the institute. In 1987, Arend van Woerden retired as editorial secretary of the journal and Marcel became his successor as executive editor.

He would thoroughly change the publication policy of the journal, an operation that benefited both the Irish and the iish, as well as Marcel’s academic development, as will be shown in the next section.

At the same time, the Irish under-went a huge reorganization led by its new director Eric Fischer. The main goal of this was to rebalance the resources devoted to collections on the one hand, and research and publications on the other.

These latter two functions, part of the original aims of the Irish foundation, had been neglected because of the massive growth of the collections and their use by the public.3 The publications department, now headed by Marcel, changed its policy in accordance with this rebalancing.

Traditionally, the Irish had focused on source publications based on the archival collections of the institute, now publications based on important new research questions were prepared.

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