chapter  2
22 Pages

Monarchs, workers and struggles for a voice

The place of labour in the politics of the decline of absolutism and the birth of a constitutional regime has been almost entirely ignored. Indeed, as the above quotation suggests, it would appear ludicrous to assert that a working class politics with significant consequences actually emerged at this time. In contradistinction to such a view, this chapter will establish that the pre-1932 period did see the rise of major problems for the absolute monarchy on the labour front. By securing the general conditions for the development of capitalism and a class of free wage-labour, the monarchy became confronted with the task of optimizing labour’s economic potential while at the same time containing its possible political challenges. In response, the absolutist state adopted a strategy that was reliant on the consistent use of repression. The discussion begins with an examination of the relationship between the absolute monarchy, the rise of capitalism and the emergence of wage-labour.