Expanding Class

Power and Everyday Politics in Industrial Communities, The Netherlands 1850–1950

Expanding Class

Comparative and International Working-Class History

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Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 6 b&w photographs, 4 maps Published: January 1998

Author: Don Kalb

History > European History

Expanding Class is the study and story of industrial class relations in North Brabant, a Catholic province of The Netherlands, over a hundred-year period. In examining the lives of workers in one of Europe’s more idiosyncratic industrial regions, Don Kalb affirms the utility of class analysis while responding to the cultural critics who have encouraged a movement away from this focus in labor history. In so doing, Expanding Class advances an interdisciplinary historical anthropology of working-class formation. Basing his analysis on oral as well as archival sources, Kalb reveals a dynamic relationship between capitalist industrialization, locality, and cultural class identities.
Expanding Class compares Brabant’s quaint central shoemaking district to its electrical boomtown Eindhoven, home of the enormous Philips Corporation. It introduces the concept of "flexible familism," a sociological phenomenon in which family daughters were employed to facilitate a cheap and ample labor force. Industrialists manipulated and fostered flexible familism to ensure the discipline and loyalty of the working-class community. By using the industrial Netherlands as a paradigm, Kalb reveals new and productive ways to examine class construction and the development of labor history in other countries over the past thirty years, steering a path between the two schools of thought—cultural and economic—that have dominated labor history discussions in recent years.


"Don Kalb has put labor history back on the cutting edge of methodological innovation."—William M. Reddy, Duke University — N/A

"Don Kalb has taken a boisterous series of excursions into North Brabant’s modern history and come back with important news concerning ways of understanding economic change, class, and social experience."—Charles Tilly, Columbia University — N/A


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Don Kalb is Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Utrecht.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2022-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2012-8
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