Work, Labor and Professions in the Roman World

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Work, Labor and Professions in the Roman World

Call for chapters & conference

Gand, 30 mai – 1er juin 2013

Appel à contributions
Date limite : 1er mai 2012



Brief description & call for chapters
Labor is one of the three classic production factors, next to land and capital. Human resources are vital for economic development – as much and more than natural resources. According to Adam Smith the division of labor is the primary key to efficiency gains because division stimulates specialization. If so, there is good reason to think that the Roman economy was (by pre-industrial standards) highly developed since literary, documentary (inscriptions, papyri) and archaeological data all indicate high levels of specialization and labor division.
Yet division of labor is inextricably bound up with how production is organized, which in turn is influenced by social, political, legal, and ideological conditions. Labor – or the lack of it – is an important factor of social identity formation and appraisal in many cultures, including Greco-Roman. Professions have the potential to divide people, but also to bind them in ties of solidarity that transcend material necessity. In short, labor is a key factor in how society and culture interrelate with economics.
In this volume we wish to bring together and confront the most recent insights, ideas and interpretations on the role of human resources in the Roman economy; their availability, quality, reliability, efficiency and so forth. We wish to do so, moreover, in an explicit dialogue with social and economic historians specialized in other periods and/or cultures.
The objective is to produce a coherent and innovative study of labor in the Roman world. We aim at about 20 chapters of ca. 6000 words. Roughly half of the chapters will be written by invited authors who will each be asked to focus on a particular aspect touching on their expertise. Keynote authors are Walter Scheidel, George Grantham, Sheilagh Ogilvie, Catharina Lis, Jinyu Liu, Cameron Hawkins and Kyle Harper. Home authors will be Koen Verboven, Arjan Zuiderhoek and Christian Laes and Peter Van Nuffelen.
For the remaining chapters we launch this open call. We explicitly encourage scholars of Late Antiquity to send proposals as we hope to integrate changing perceptions and modes of organization of labor until 600 CE.
Authors who wish to contribute a chapter should send us a chapter outline of ca. 1000 words, clearly stating their topic, research hypotheses, objectives and methods. Chapter outlines have to reach us before May 1st, 2012. A first draft (or working paper) is expected by 1st May 2013. Authors are invited to present and discuss their draft at a conference in Ghent, 30th May – 1st June, 2013.

This monograph and conference are part of the six year research program on “Factors of Production in the Roman World” of the Roman Society Research Center, which is covered also (since 1st Jan. 2012) by the international research network “Structural Determinants of Economic Performance in the Roman World” (2012-2016). It follows up on the international conference on “Land and Natural Resources in the Roman World” which was held in Brussels in May 2011 and formed the basis for a collaborative monograph currently under preparation for publication by Oxford U.P. It will be followed by a third on “Capital and investments in the Roman World” (2013-2015).

Introduction by the editors
K. Verboven, Christian Laes, Peter Van Nuffelen
Part 1. Labor relations
The division and organization of labor is all about how humans interrelate. Unlike the mechanical interplay of machine parts, labor results from the actions of human agents who have their own wills and agendas. Setting labor in motion implies moving the minds of humans.
In this part we wish to study how human resources could be mobilized in the Roman world – whether through wage labor, slavery, freedmen labor, independent labor, forced labor, military labor or any other form. We are particularly interested in the various constraints and possibilities that shaped labor relations; in how these in turn changed (or failed to change) to suit economic purposes; and in how Roman solutions compared to those of other empires, states and cultures. For instance, did Roman laws on slavery and patron-freedman relations stimulate the efficiency of slave/freedmen labor? How efficient was the ‘familia' model compared to wage based firms and paid agency relations? How important was wage labor, considering that in most provinces the slave population was too small to provide a significant alternative to households?
Key note authors:
Walter Scheidel, Slavery and forced labor in ancient China and the ancient Mediterranean
Cameron Hawkins, t.b.a.
Arjan Zuiderhoek, Slavery, Unfree Labour and Wage Labour in the Roman East/Roman Asia Minor
Part 2. Professional organizations (collegia)
Many of the numerous private associations (collegia) brought together members who shared the same profession. Protecting common interests was surely part of what collegia did, but the solidarity among collegiati went far beyond economic interests. Collegia were always (also) social communities with their own religious cults, private celebrations and parties, and funerary and commemorative practices.
In this section we wish to focus on the question of whether and how collegia affected the quality, availability and organization of labor. Did collegia improve or decrease the productivity of labor? Did they stimulate or block the exchange of new ideas and techniques? Did they stimulate trust and solidarity between members of different collegia practicing the same trade or rather increase distrust and competition?
Key note authors
Jinyu Liu, t.b.a.
Koen Verboven, t.b.a.
Sheilagh Ogilvie, t.b.a.
Part 3. Skills and learning: apprenticeship & structured learning
Human labor is rarely (if ever) just about brute force. Skills, tools and techniques amplify brain and muscle power, and the range to which they can be put. Without technologies of the mind – literacy, numeracy and their tools – complex labor organizations are impossible.
We are interested here in how technological skills affected labor relations, increased efficiency, raised productivity and how (and why) technological knowledge spread around over and between human populations. The stress here should be on how skills were acquired and trained and what the effects were for economic development. For instance, was the level and orientation of investments in education, apprenticeships and training conducive to growth or not?
Key note authors:
George Grantham, t.b.a.
Nicolas Tran, t.b.a.
Part 4. Ideological perspectives
The negative valuation of labor in literary texts and the very different Christian views on the virtue of labor occupied a central place in research for decades. Wage labor in particular would have been so strongly associated with servility that it was shun by freeborn for centuries and would have blocked the development of a free labor market. With the exception of farm labor, even independent labor – for instance by artisans or merchants – was so generally and profoundly scorned in elite ideology that anticipatory socialization made successful businessmen massively transform into landowners as soon as possible. Only in the Christian days of Late Antiquity would labor have become a symbol of virtuousness and a source of respect and pride.
Scholars today no longer hold such straightforward views. Opinions by moralists and poets are no reliable reflection of aristocratic moral codes. Elite ideologies always attempt to create symbolic distances to match differences in power and wealth. Glimpses of a different moral code among urban craftsmen and merchants can be seen in funerary monuments, reliefs and bylaws of professional collegia.
But the role of ideology in the perception and practice of labor is still an important issue. In this section we wish to explore how cultural beliefs and preferences affected the organization and performance of work. Was there a strong link between profession and social identity? Did such a link stimulate efficiency, for instance by increasing the value accorded to the quality (or quantity) of one's product? Did respectability (if there was any) increase investments in trade and industry? Did Christianity really make a difference?
Key note authors
Catharina Lis & Hugo Soly, Christelijke arbeidsideologieën
Kyle Harper, t.b.a.
Christian Laes, t.b.a.

Reacties op de inhoud: Koen.Verboven[at]

Source : Université de Gand.



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