tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

A unique workplace


They’re not easy to find and haven’t been re-issued, the 4×400 pages doctoral dissertation in economic history by Ulf Eriksson, entitled “Gruva och arbete. Kiirunavaara 1890-1990” (in Swedish, translated as “Mine and work. Kiirunavaara 1890-1990”). Published and defended in 1991 at Uppsala University, Eriksson (from Kiruna) presents an impressive, predominantly empirical, labour process history from inside the gates of the Kiruna mine.

We have once again got our hands on somebody else’s copies and couldn’t help translate a section since it triggers thoughts on the particular and peculiar workplace an underground mine constitutes. Let’s face it, a mine is not a clothing factory. Just think about going down the Kiruna mine and find yourself on a road linked to a road network of about 600 km, all underground. This presents a spatially interesting challenge to the organising of work and management control. Below, Eriksson reflects upon the difficulty of identifying any clear cause-and-effect relations between the introduction and development of new technology and the way work was organised, and argues that the mountain itself shouldn’t be underestimated:

“The perhaps single most important reason for the lack of immediate and direct causality-arrows between technology and organisation was that an adjustment always had to be done to the specific nature of the object of work, that is, to the limitations set by the mountain and the ore body’s geographic and structural peculiarities for the organisation of work. This, for example, was actualised in the case of management’s possibilities to in practice direct and control the work.” (Eriksson 1991, part III: 152)