worlds of work

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Commentary on the book edited by Maria do Rosário Cunha Peixoto and Nelson Tomelin Jr.

Provide the Brazilian readership with opportunities for a debate on Worlds of work: XNUMXth and XNUMXst centuries it is to provoke society to question the paths taken by capitalism in its incessant “greed” for exploitation and profit, which confronts workers and their autonomy projects. Such questioning articulates the interests of historians who work in different national research and teaching institutions, in a sphere of geographic scope that encompasses the North, Northeast, Southeast and Midwest of Brazil, present in this collection and articulated to similar nuclei in different parts of the country. world.

This collection of writings, organized by Maria do Rosário da Cunha Peixoto and Nelson Tomelin Jr., emerges as one of the results of research that has been carried out by professors and students at the University of São Paulo (USP: Maurício Gomes da Silva, Poliana Santos and Vandré Aparecido Silva, postgraduate and postgraduate students, plus Preface by Lincoln Secco, Professor), from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP: Heloísa Faria Cruz, Olga Brites and Maria do Rosário da Cunha Peixoto, Professors), from Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM: Nelson Tomelin Jr. and Maria Luiza Ugarte Pinheiro) and the Federal University of Campina Grande (UFCG: José Otávio Aguiar and Hilmária Xavier Silva, Professor and Postgraduate), together with the PROCAD/CAPES Project. It is a sample of the effort made by the Brazilian university to think about Brazil and the world, to dialogue with the society that guarantees its existence, to teach this society and learn from it.

The writers of the book are professors and/or researchers from those Brazilian higher education institutions and teaching units at the elementary and secondary levels. His texts reflect on Brazilian society and the paths and detours that have been taken in the sphere of struggle for material survival and in the definition of wills and own projects by workers, the social universe of which they and we are a part as intellectuals by profession, without forgetting that all human beings are endowed with intellect, are intellectuals. And that the world of work is not reduced to acts of production of goods and services; it is, first of all, infinite experiences of men and women in their continuous making themselves, a set of sociability.

This is how the authors of these texts approach themes and problems such as Industrial Heritage and Urban Memory, Policies for Children and Workers' Families, Migration and Ethnicity, Workers and Justice, Communist Military and Rights, Popular Resistance, Carnival and Literature, Ethnic Mutualism, Recycling and Environment and Welfare and Politics. Faced with these worlds of work, historians are also new critical subjects who seek to analyze women and men, of different age groups, in their daily lives.

Contemporaneity has placed us as a greater certainty the uncertainty of what once seemed consolidated: a “craft”. Every day, the appeals of technology, at an accelerated pace, create and destroy professions, leading to ways of life, experiences, beliefs and paradigms being put in check.

It is worth remembering that there is no contemporaneity without its befores and afters, that the befores appeal to us with regard to open projects, as Walter Benjamin taught us in his classic essay “About the Concept of History”[I], and that the aftermath depends largely on our actions in the face of the challenges we face, as can be discussed from Edward Thompson in his brilliant trilogy The making of the English working class[ii].

There are the memories and projects of workers, who are men and women endowed with multiple capacities and permanently express themselves before the world, within the world, they are the world themselves.

Talking about the world of work is asking about cultural practices and political capacities of social groups, their resistance and their alternatives. And the lines in this volume appear in a Brazilian political moment in which disastrous policies destroy rights and seriously worsen the living conditions of those who live from their work, wages are even more reduced, guarantees in the fields of Health and Education threateningly disappear.

It would be very comfortable just to declare the end of the world of work in the face of new technologies, praise technological objectification as if we were one more cog in the dominant gear, impassively watch the consolidation of controls over everyone's lives through work online and expanded automation. There is a disturbing silence, in the declaration of that supposed end, about social differences, powers of certain groups over others, which prevent until the present moment the will of generalized access to wealth and leisure.

Historians, we are more than things. We talk about workers and we are workers too. We can wish to overcome the social forces that oppress and exploit: the world is much more than that.

And historical knowledge has contributed to these struggles. The world of work is also the world of the historian, as this book demonstrates so well at an opportune time.

* Mark Silva is a professor at the Department of History at FFLCH-USP.

*Marinalva Vilar de Lima is a professor of history at the Federal University of Campina Grande (UFCG).



Maria do Rosário Cunha Peixoto and Nelson Tomelin Jr. (eds.). Worlds of work: XNUMXth and XNUMXst centuries. Sao Paulo, Annablume, 2020.



[I] BENJAMIN, Walter. “On the Concept of History”, in: Magic and technique, art and politics. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1985, p. 222/232.

[ii] THOMPSON, Edward. The Making of the English Working Class. Translation by Denise Bottmann, Renato Busatto Neto and Cláudia RochadeAlmeida, Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra. 1987.

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