Palissade de Chantier

This is an archived version of the PW Sources newsletter from Saturday, May 20. Sign up to receive PW Sources directly to your inbox here.


The first international labor convention in 1919 declared the adoption of an 8-hour work day or a 48-hour work week. But for decades following, labor time standards varied greatly throughout European colonies, reflecting different forms colonial rule across and within empires.

In a new paper, MAGNUS BERGLI RASMUSSEN and CARL HENRIK KNUTSEN explain how the First World War marked a turning point in imperial labor regulation. 

From the text:

“The finding that colonial empires—often built off the back of forced local labor or other labor exploitation—would regulate work hours may appear very surprising. We do show that European colonial empires were, historically, less likely to regulate work hours, but only up to a certain point in time. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, independent countries were, on average, more likely to standardize working hours compared to colonial possessions. Starting in 1919, however, our new data show that regulations in colonies started to catch up and eventually even outpace those in independent states. To help explain the inflection point and trends of convergence after 1919, we argue that colonial administrators were more likely to accept working time standardization once they faced increased costs and challenges of different kinds—internationally, in the metropole, or in the colony—from continuing the status quo policy. Plausible candidates for major such costs and challenges increasing after 1919 include: 1) costs of repression to maintain labor exploitation are high, facilitating the need to establish voluntary labor markets and labor codes, 2) international legitimacy challenges arise (when combined with the metropole’s minimum level of sensitivity to international norms), 3) domestic legitimacy challenges to imperial rule at home arise, following democratization or increasing worker power in the metropole, 4) the need to co-opt native worker movements is high (following a regime threat), and, finally 5) as result of political inclusion of native groups in colonial rule.” 

+  “None of the pre-war ILO regulations applied applied to situations which that organization considered universal and normal in the neocolonial world, such as regulating work hours and providing for social security.” By Frederick Cooper. Link

+  “Evidence from planters’ own documents as well as from other sources strongly suggests that planters had to negotiate wages, hours, and benefits with their former slaves, and that they objected to their recently diminished authority.” By Madhavi Kale. Link

+  “The conquest of the eight-hour day became the norm between 1917 and 1919, in the wake of the revolutions in Russia and in Germany.” From Pietro Basso’s Modern Times, Ancient Hours: Working Lives in the Twenty-First CenturyLink


Divided cities in Europe

KETEVANI KAPANADZEIS is a PhD student in the Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education in Prague. In her job market paper, she explores the spatial concentration of economic activity in formerly divided European cities. 

From the abstract

“This paper explores a unique quasi-natural experiment of opening borders within cities that were historically a single urban entity and were divided due to border shift  following major historical conflicts. After inter-city borders were opened, I find that local economic activities, measured by remotely sensed nightlight, became more concentrated close to the pre-division city centers. This raises an important question: what type of border opening is more important in spurring agglomeration, the free movement of goods or of people? When looking into potential mechanisms behind the impact, using national business register databases, I find that proximity to former historical centers is more prominent, particularly after allowance of the free movement of people as a part of the Schengen agreement in 2008, whereas gaining broader market access following the 2004 EU enlargement is less important. I account for two main channels. First, I show that firms in the consumption sectors are more exposed to the free movement of people and are more likely to start operating closer to historical city centers than are firms in the production sectors, which are less affected by local market potentials. Second, I show that cities in which cultural and language differences are not barriers to cross-border cooperation are more influenced by the free movement of people than cities where these barriers still exist.”

+ + +

+  “Green industrial strategy as implemented in the US is bigger than in Europe, more impactful than in Australia, Canada or India, and more reliant on private sector investment than in Japan, Korea, or China.” New on The Polycrisis, Lachlan Carey on the IRA & Biden’s climate spending. Link

+  “While the New Washington Consensus offers allies carte blanche on the interventionist economic tools they seek to apply domestically, it’s up to them to ‘crowd in’ private investment and find fiscal space.” Also new from The Polycrisis newsletter, Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay on the new Washington Consensus. Link

+  Phenomenal World is hiring an editorial intern for the summer. This part-time, paid opportunity is open to all CUNY undergrads. See more details and apply here

+ “A Los Angeles public bank could finance the transition of nearly 1,500 workers to shared business owners within the first ten years.” The latest from JFI and Berggruen’s joint report series, by Halah Ahmad, Yakov Feygin, Jack Landry, Alison Lingane, and Eric Medrano. Link

+  Amita Arudpragasam on the economic crisis in Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern regions. Link

+  Two on pharmaceuticals. A report from American Economic Liberties Project and I-MAK on how the pharmaceutical industry perpetuates monopolies. And Amy Kapczynski on the political economy of market power in pharmaceuticals. Link and link

+  “The employment-related costs for mothers of providing unpaid care to minor children and parents, parents-in-law, and spouses (including unmarried partners) with care needs average $295,000 over a lifetime.” By Richard W. Johnson, Karen E. Smith, and Barbara A. Butrica. Link.

+  Yanis Varoufakis on central bank digital currencies. Link

+  “Overall defense spending of NATO plus candidate Sweden will top 1.2 trillion euros, or 2.6% of total GDP.” By Florian Dorn, Niklas Potrafke, and Marcel Schlepper. Link.

+  “The 1903 Herrán-Hay Treaty offered Colombia a $10 million one-off payment for the right to build and operate the Panama Canal and, once the canal was operating, an annual payment of $250,000 for 14 years. The treaty was rejected by Colombia’s congress, and in November 1903 the U.S. government supported the secession of Panama and subsequently negotiated construction of the canal with Panama’s. After Panama’s secession the relationship between Colombia and America soured. Between 1903 and 1913 the only attempt to normalize Colombian-American relations was the 1909 Root-Cortez agreement that offered Colombia $2.5 million in reparation to U.S. support to Panama’s secession. The small amount the treaty involved caused fury in Colombia’s congress. Rafael Reyes, Colombia’s president, who had negotiated the agreement, was accused of treason, and under mounting pressure, resigned and left the country in exile.” By Xavier Duran and Marcelo Bucheli. Link

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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