EURO-DEM project, funded by ANR and DFG


Workplace democracy: a European ideal? : discourses and practices about the democratization of work after 1945.

EURO-DEM studies with the methods of conceptual and social history, and political theory, the circulation of the idea of workplace democracy among European trade-unions and the academia after 1945. In the 20th century industrial democracy has been a vibrant movement that encompassed a broad spectrum of meanings, from internal union democracy over collective bargaining to co-determination at shop-floor, enterprise, industry and national economic level. Since the beginning, trade unions have played a major role in the theoretical promotion and in the concrete management of workplace democracy in most European countries. 

EURO-DEM is jointly hosted by the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin and the Institut für Soziale Bewegungen in Bochum.

The full project is available upon request. For further information about adverted positions, please contact directly sub-projects’ scientific coordinators.


The project is divided into four sub-projects.


Sub Project 1: The theoretical construction of “workplace democracy” between trade-unions and academic discourses

This research line studies the mutual influences and interactions between trade-union and academic disciplines in shaping discourses on workplace democracy. Its research object is the circulation of concepts among academic disciplines: in which disciplinary context did specific notions of workplace democracy or workers’ voice emerge and thrive? How are the disciplinary trajectories of concepts related to non-academic circumstances, such as in particular the geographically different and historically evolving role of other knowledge-producing institutions relevant for this field, in particular trade-unions? How did the professionalization of discourses outside academia, notably through trade-union foundations, affect academic discourses? Are references to trade-unions’ theoretical positions, or to trade-unions as democratic actors explicit?

Adopting a comparative perspective, the research will consist in a desk study of discourses on workplace democracy across the spectrum of the social and political sciences since WW II.  For further information please contact: Roberto Frega ( 


Sub Project 2: Workplace democracy – The contradiction between discourses and practices from 1975 to 2000

Workplace democracy is a concept that has been examined from different perspectives, such as ethics or economics, as well as referring to citizenship and general representation rights. There are numerous arguments supporting workplace democracy. However, the reality that workers’ representatives perceive often looks different. This project will examine how the situation of workplace democracy is experienced by the actors of workers’ representation – mainly works councils as the main representatives on workplace level, but also trade union representatives. The contradictions of lived reality, academic discourse and political panel discussions will be investigated. Among others, a special focus will be directed at the changes induced by the economic and social transformation, the decline of trade union memberships or the rise of precarious work.  For further information please contact: Manfred Wannöffel (


Sub Project 3: Self-Management. A "Franco-Yugoslav" model for Europe, 1945 – 1990

In the aftermath of May 1968, and for another fifteen years, the concept of self-management (in French Autogestion) became central to the discourse of parts of the trade unions and the political Left in France as a radical version of the idea of workplace democracy. The genesis of a French self-management "model" cannot be understood without taking into account the system of selfmanagement in Tito's socialist Yugoslavia, from 1950 onwards. This is why it seems more accurate to speak of a "Franco-Yugoslavian model". In the project, we will examine the dissemination and reception of the idea of self-management in the trade unions of Western European countries, but also among intellectuals and within political parties, from a comparative as well as from a transnational perspective and pursue the question of how the idea of self-management circulated. For further information please contact: Frank Georgi ( 


Sub Project 4: ‘Co-determination’ – a German model for Europe, 1945 – mid 1990s

Adopting a transnational perspective, the research will consist in a study of discourses on codetermination in Britain, France, Italy and Sweden. 

The German idea of ‘co-determination’ (Mitbestimmung) has provided one of the most discussed models of workplace democracy throughout the post WWII period. The project aims to provide the first sustained study of the circulation of the model of co-determination across different West European trade unions between the 1950s and the 1990s focussing on Britain, France, Italy and Sweden. It will also take into account the reception of those ideas among the employers’ federations and among the political parties that were often closely allied to the trade union movements. Furthermore, it will look at the academic discourse on co-determination and how it influenced the reception and positioning of trade unions towards this concept. 

For further information please contact: Stefan Berger (

Further information

Generic inquiries should be addressed to the two principal investigators (Roberto Frega and Stefan Berger). Specific inquiries concerning the positions should be addressed to sub-projects’ scientific coordinators.


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