Labour History Review

Inscribing Class Struggle in Space: Unemployed Protest in the Ruhr in Late Weimar Germany

Labour History Review (2015), 80, (1), 31–62.

Abstract

This article foregrounds the spatial dimensions of culture and lifeworld in unemployed collective actions and considers how actual lived spaces helped constitute and shape unemployed protest in the Ruhr during the late Weimar Republic (1929–33). It complements the analysis of the temporal aspects of unemployed contention highlighted in recent work by Matt Perry, Matthias Reiss, Eve Rosenhaft, and Anthony McElligott. The article is based on primary sources from federal, state, regional, and urban archives in Germany and is informed by recent developments in spatial theory in anthropology, phenomenology, historical geography, and Marxism regarding the politics of space and the spatiality of political action. It explores the social production (i.e., materiality and physicality) as well as the social construction (i.e., experience and use) of space to show how the unemployed used their intimate knowledge and experience of the Ruhr's urban environments to protest their condition, gain many of their economic demands, and build a militant movement. It argues that Henri Lefebvre's contention that ‘class struggle is inscribed in space' appears to hold particularly true for the Ruhr in the late Weimar Republic.

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Author details

Zukas, Alex