Why did German Early Industrial Capitalists Suggest Workers’ Pensions, Arbitration Boards and Minimum Wages?

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    Today at the beginning of the 21st century, there is a debate across Europe about how much welfare society should provide, and how much private insurance is possible. Two hundred years ago, in the formative period of industrial capitalism, social problems had long been left to private initiative. Commodification of labour and its concentration in large factories, however, created demand for social protection beyond the limited shelter provided by charity. Representatives of industry in Aachen suggested compulsory factory rules granting rights to workers, compulsory workers’ pension funds, minimum wages and maximum working hours. The article argues that the industrialists’ aim was to stabilize the social order of industrial capitalism by using ideas of social partnership. Labour should not just be pacified, but reconciled with capitalist society. While interpreting social policy as a capitalist aim, the article aims to contribute to the discussion about the origins of the welfare state.
    Translated title of the contributionWarum haben deutsche frühindustrielle Unternehmer Arbeiterrenten, Schiedsstellen und Mindestlöhne gefordert?
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)351-376
    Number of pages26
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


    • Welfare state
    • Industrial relations
    • Social policy
    • Arbitration boards
    • Early industrialization

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