A long line of employers cum mayors

The rise and decline of personalized domination (1850-1970)
By Nicolas Renahy

Analyses of “paternalism” often highlight a personalized type of domination between employers and their workers. This paper studies employers outside of their firms and uses the instruments of political anthropology (matrimonial strategies and kinship relations in respect of the composition of successive municipal councils) to analyze the way the nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrial bourgeoisie became established in villages. It reveals that personalized domination really occurred only in the inter-war years, when a relative familiarity was instigated between the employer-mayor established among the region’s industrial bourgeoisie and a fraction of the workers living in the village. Ahead of this period came the progressive embedding of economic and political power that peaked when the employer-class held sway over the village, directing the local council and controlling the competing social groups. Post-war, personalized domination by employers had had its day and survived only in strands amid the web of village power politics.


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