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Marching for Morals: Early Struggles in the Dutch Christian Worker Movement

Peter van Dam


This article explores three moral conflicts that lie at the heart of the history of the Christian worker movement in the second half of the nineteenth century. First, the tension between an immaterial and a material orientation dominated the question of whether to form only associations directed toward spiritual well-being or trade unions as well. Second, the relationship between workers and their employers and the relationship between socialist and Christian groups was strained by the tension between harmony and struggle as two opposite possible directions for worker organizations. Third, the choice between pragmatic unity and undistorted conviction has been relevant to the issue of cooperation between Christian and socialist workers but became even more pressing within the debate on the desirability of denominational trade unions instead of a shared nondenominational Christian organization. Underlying these three moral conflicts is the pressure exerted by the activities of worker organizations on local, national, and transnational levels. Rephrasing the history of the early Dutch Christian worker movement along the lines of these three moral debates, it becomes clear that conflict is a driving force and an inescapable ingredient of civil society.

Peter van Dam, "Marching for Morals: Early Struggles in the Dutch Christian Worker Movement," Journal of Markets & Morality 14, no. 2 (Fall 2011): 373-391

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