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Coping with crisis: labour markets, institutional changes and household economies. An introduction

  • Manuela Martini (a1) and Cristina Borderías (a2)

Extract

Today as in the past, most often crises take people by surprise. This fact has recently provoked strong criticism of the ability of an economic theory to predict crises, to understand their course and to establish solutions to mitigate their effects. History can thus serve as a reservoir of facts and experiences, and the use of a broad chronological perspective has been recently highlighted as essential to providing a wider, comparative knowledge of past crises. Recent economic historiography has highlighted the importance of studying financial and commercial crises alongside agrarian and demographic crises, as well as questioning specific aspects of these shocks. Another important dimension stressed by recent historical studies is the importance of recognising that crises in the past occurred against a background in which uncertainty was the norm. In societies that experienced various forms of ordinary uncertainty (linked for example to the ‘dead’ season in food or textile production), crises constitute peaks of exceptional uncertainty.

French Abstract

Introduction. Faire face à la crise: marchés du travail, changements institutionnels et économie des ménages

Malgré nombre de recherches récentes sur la nature et l’impact des crises, leur effet au niveau microéconomique et la nature genrée des réponses qu’elles suscitèrent sont encore peu étudiés. Ce numéro spécial présente différentes crises à cette échelle, à savoir au niveau de la famille et des ménages, en portant une attention toute particulière au genre. Les articles examinent les multiples manières dont les ménages ont réagi aux crises au sein de régions en voie d’industrialisation, hommes et femmes offrant leur main d’oeuvre de mille façons, leur adaptation pouvant par exemple les mener à exercer des activités illégales, à migrer ou à toute autre réaction. Le numéro spécial adopte une perspective à long terme, proposant des études de cas du XVIIIe au XXe siècle, centrées sur l’Europe méditerranéenne et l’Amérique latine, des zones traditionnellement moins explorées par les historiens.

German Abstract

Einführung zu ‘Krisenbewältigung’

Trotz beachtlicher neuerer Forschungen über Wesen und Wirkungen von Krisen sind deren Einflüsse auf der Mikroebene ebenso wie die genderbedingten Reaktionen darauf nach wie vor ein Desiderat. Dieses Sonderheft widmet sich der Erforschung unterschiedlicher Krisen auf der Mikroebene der Familie und der Haushaltsökonomie und legt dabei besonderes Augenmerk auf Genderfragen. Die Beiträge untersuchen, auf welch unterschiedliche Weise sich Haushalte in Industrialisierungsregionen auf Krisen einstellten - durch unterschiedliche Formen der Erwerbsbeteiligung von Männern und Frauen, den Rückgriff auf illegale Tätigkeiten, Migration und andere Anpassungsformen. Das Sonderheft nimmt eine langfristige Perspektive ein, versammelt Fallstudien vom 18. bis zum 20. Jahrhundert und widmet sich mit dem mittelmeerischen Europa und Lateinamerika zwei Räumen, die herkömmlicherweise weniger Aufmerksamkeit von Historikern erhalten haben.

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Corresponding author

Corresponding author. Email: manuela.martini@univ-lyon2.fr

References

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Endnotes

1 The term crisis has been used in a very broad sense by social and economic historians, both from a chronological and thematic point of view, ranging from financial crises to agrarian famines, from effects of trade disputes to war. See A. T. Brown, Andy Burn and Rob Doherty eds., Crises in economic and social history: a comparative perspective (Woodbridge, 2015), 1–2.

2 Cassis, Youssef, Crises and opportunities, the shaping of modern finance (Oxford, 2011); Vivier, Nadine, ‘Pour un réexamen des crises économiques du XIXe siècle en France’, Histoire & Mesure 26, 1 (2011), 135–56; Rollet, Catherine, ‘L′effet des crises économiques du début du XIXe siècle sur la population’, Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 17, 3 (1970), 391410; White, Eugene H., ‘Was there a solution to the Ancien Régime financial dilemma?’, Journal of Economic History 49, 3 (1989), 545–68; Legay, Marie-Laure, Félix, Joël and White, Eugene, ‘Retour sur les origines financières de la Révolution française’, Annales historiques de la Révolution française 356, 2 (2009), 183201, including extensive bibliographical references.

3 Fontaine, Laurence and Schlumbohm, Jürgen, ‘Household strategies for survival: an introduction’, International Review of Social History 45, 8 (2000), 117, 12.

4 Heltberg, Rasmus, Hossain, Naomi, Reva, Anna and Turk, Carolyn, ‘Coping and resilience during the food, fuel, and financial crises’, The Journal of Development Studies 49, 5 (2013), 705718, 706.

5 Wallerstein, Immanuel, ‘Y a-t-il une crise du XVIIe siècle?’, Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations 34, 1 (1979), 126–44, https://doi.org/10.3406/ahess.1979.294028, « La crise désignerait alors ces rares moments historiques où les mécanismes de compensation qui jouent habituellement à l'intérieur d'un système social s'avèrent si inefficaces du point du vue d'un si grand nombre acteurs sociaux que devient nécessaire une restructuration d'ensemble du système économique et pas seulement une redistribution des avantages intérieurs du système » (‘The crisis would then refer to those rare historical moments when the compensation mechanisms that usually operate within a social system are so ineffective from the point of view of so many social actors that an overall restructuring of the economic system, and not only a redistribution of the internal benefits of the system, becomes necessary’), 127. In this article, he was dealing with the debate on the 17th century crises opened by a famous double article published several years before by Hobsbawm, Eric, ‘The general crisis of the European economy in the 17th century: I’, Past & Present 5 (1954), 3353; and ‘The crisis of the 17th century: II’, 6 (1954), 44–65.

6 Avdela, Efi, ‘Le genre dans la crise, ou ce qui arrive aux “femmes” dans les temps difficiles’, Nouvelles questions feministes: Revue internationale francophone 34, 2 (2015), 23. More generally see Borderías, Cristina and Muñoz, Lina Gálvez, ‘Cambios y continuidades en las desigualdades de genero: Notas para una agenda de investigacion’, Areas: revista de ciencias sociales 33 (2014), 715; Martini, Manuela and Papastefanaki, Leda, ‘Des économies familiales adaptatives dans l'Europe méditerranéenne (fin XIXe-milieu du XXe siècle). Introduction’, The Historical Revue/La Revue Historique 15 (2018), 918.

7 See, for example, Allen, Robert C., Bengtsson, Tommy and Dribe, Martin eds., Living standards in the past. New perspectives on well-being in Asia and Europe (Oxford, 2005). For Northern Europe, see Morell, Mats, ‘Subsistence crises during the Ancien and Nouveau Régime in Sweden? An interpretative review’, Histoire & Mesure 26, 1 (2011), 105134.

8 Fontaine and Schlumbohm, ‘Household strategies’, 11.

9 Sarti, Raffaella, Bellavitis, Anna and Martini, Manuela eds., What is work? Gender at the crossroads of home, family, and business from the early modern era to the present (New York, Oxford, 2018).

10 Humphries, Jane, Childhood and child labour in the British industrial revolution (Cambridge, 2010), 49.

11 Heltberg, Hossain, Reva and Turk, ‘Coping and resilience’, 708.

12 Miller, Fiona et al. , ‘Resilience and vulnerability: complementary or conflicting concepts?’, Ecology and Society 15, 3 (2010), 11.

13 Heltberg, Hossain, Reva and Turk, ‘Coping and resilience’, 708.

14 Ibid., 708. See also Floro, Maria S., ‘Economic restructuring, gender and the allocation of time’, World Development 23, 1 (1995), 19131929.

15 Muñoz, Lina Gálvez and Modroño, Paula Rodríguez, ‘La desigualdad de género en las crisis económicas’, Investigaciones Feministas 2 (2011), 113132; Dong, Sarah Xue, ‘Does economic crisis have a different impact on husbands and wives? Evidence from the Asian financial crisis in Indonesia’, Review of Development Economics 22 (2018), 14891512.

16 Elson, Diane, ‘Gender and the global economic crisis in developing countries: a framework for analysis’, Gender and Development 18, 2 (2010), 201212.

17 Xue Dong, ‘Does economic crisis have different impact on husbands and wives?’.

18 Walby, Crisis, 11 and chap. 7 “Crisis in the Gender Regime”, 144.

19 Walby, Crisis, 11 and 144. The changes in gender systems due to crises she points out are linked to the fluctuations between neoliberalism and social democracy in the policies of different states. Here, we focus on societies that had only partial forms of assistance which were very far from the current welfare systems in the Western world. However, this book can offer useful suggestions when talking about gender relationships in crisis contexts where state intervention is minimal, particularly in terms of service provision as a substitute for care. See also for Europe, Southern, Carlini, Roberta, Come siamo cambiati: Gli italiani e la crisi (Roma-Bari, 2015).

20 See, for example, Gálvez Muñoz and Rodríguez Modroño, ‘La desigualdad de género’.

21 A good example here is the categories of de-familiarization or re-familiarization used for this purpose in Espin-Andersen, Gosta, Incomplete revolution. Adapting welfare state to women's new roles (Cambridge, 2009), cf. Walby, Crisis, 146–147. See also Margarita Estevez-Abe, ‘Gendering the varieties of capitalism. A study of occupational segregation by sex in advanced industrial societies’, World Politics 59, 1 (2006), 142–75. Historians have long recognised this; see, for example, Laura Lee Downs, Manufacturing inequality: gender division in the French and British metalworking industries, 1914–1939 (Ithaca, 1995); Laura Lee Downs, ‘Can we construct a holistic approach to women's labor history over the longue durée?’, in Sarti, Bellavitis and Martini eds., What is work?, 349–67.

22 Brown, Burn and Doherty, Crises in economic and social history; Fontaine and Schlumbohm, ‘Household strategies’, 12; Heltberg, Hossain, Reva and Turk, ‘Coping and resilience’, write: ‘Instead of seeing coping as functional and (mainly) successful adaptive processes, our work tells us that at the local level, the coping responses on which people customarily lean during tough times can be fundamentally overwhelmed by protracted systemic shocks’, 708.

23 Ibid.

24 Brown, Burn and Doherty eds., Crises in economic and social history.

25 Humphries, Childhood and child labour, 14; Wall, Richard, ‘Characteristics of European family and household systems’, Historical Social Research 23, 1–2 (1998), 4466.

26 Wallerstein, ‘Y a-t-il une crise’.

27 Heltberg, Hossain, Reva and Turk, ‘Coping and resilience’, 716.

28 Martini, Manuela, Bâtiment en famille. Migrations et petite entreprise du bâtiment en banlieue parisienne au XXe siècle (Paris, 2016), 291–6.

Coping with crisis: labour markets, institutional changes and household economies. An introduction

  • Manuela Martini (a1) and Cristina Borderías (a2)

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