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Payment and Freedom in the Prussian Reform Era

***repost from the Dept. of History***


Public Policy : 206

Date & Time

October 4, 2022, 3:00 pm4:00 pm


Payment and Freedom in the Prussian Reform Era

John Anthony Weir Professor of History
Affiliated Faculty, Program in Politics, Law and Social Thought
Affiliated Faculty, Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality
Rice University

What does it mean to get paid for work?  What does the employer believe is communicated by wages to the worker, and how does the worker interpret wages received?  How do onlookers interpret that transaction?  Wages are a thin mode of communicating about a thick relationship—an economic, social, cultural, and moral relationship. 

This presentation examines the German case at the moment when free labor was enshrined by law.  Napoleon defeated Prussia in 1806, and Prussian reformers persuaded their king to make many reforms. One was the October Edict of 1807, which ended serfdom and established equality before the law with respect to occupation.  In fact, though, there already were free waged laborers in Prussia before this dramatic moment.  Did the meaning of their wages change, now that everyone was to enjoy freedom of occupation and be paid for their labor?

The event is sponsored by the Eminent Scholar Mentor Program and the Department of History.  Click here for the original post.