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ILO Histories

Essays on the International Labour Organization and Its Impact on the World During the Twentieth Century


Edited By Jasmien Van Daele, Magaly Rodriguez Garcia and Geert van Goethem

In 2009, the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrated its ninetieth anniversary. The First World War and the revolutionary wave it provoked in Russia and elsewhere were powerful inspirations for the founding of the ILO. There was a growing understanding that social justice, in particular by improving labour conditions, was an essential precondition for universal peace. Since then, the ILO has seen successes and set-backs; it has been ridiculed and praised. Much has been written about the ILO; there are semi-official histories and some critical studies on the organization’s history have recently been published. Yet, further source-based critical and comprehensive analyses of the organization’s origins and development are still lacking. The present collection of eighteen essays is an attempt to change this unsatisfactory situation by complementing those histories that already exist, exploring new topics, and offering new perspectives. It is guided by the observation that the ILO’s history is not primarily about «elaborating beautiful texts and collecting impressive instruments for ratification» but about effecting «real change and more happiness in peoples’ lives».


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10 The ILO and the IMI: A Strategy of Influence on the Edges of the League of Nations, 1925-1934 251


8=6EI:G The >AD and the >B>: A Strategy of Influence on the Edges of the League of Nations, - Thomas Cayet In his seminal book on the International Labour Organization (>AD), George Scelle considered the creation of the International Management Institute (>B>) as emblematic of the >AD’s controversial extension of its com- petencies. This small institution embodied Albert Thomas’s vision of the >AD`s economic role in the international field. Addressing “scientific man- agement” or “rationalization” was not just a way to foster links between the young organization and networks of engineers and businessmen, but also a means to tackle the challenge of mass production and modern dis- tribution. In order to strengthen its international position, the >AD had to acquire specific competence concerning the crucial issue of economic modernization. The creation of the >B>, with the help of an American foundation (the Twentieth Century Fund) permitted the construction of an original space of discussion around these Taylorist ideas and the progressive creation of a unique network of actors. Even though the >B> eventually collapsed with the ebb of internationalism, it clearly had a role in the international appro- priation of new ways of conceiving organizational knowledge. The >B> embodied a general rationalization from the most local to the most global level. For a while, its action focused attention on the highly controversial question of the link between “scientific management” and “industrial relations”– the link between economic modernization and social cooperation. It permitted dialogue between various actors and...

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