The Employment Contract as the Materialization of the Social Order. Contracts at Albert Ranft’s Stockholm theatres, 1895-1926
In the archive, the materialized traces of theatrical organization and performances remain. In this paper, we focus on the employment contract, as a type of source material commonly found but rarely studied in theatre studies. Empirically, the paper is based on a study of contracts from Albert Ranft’s Stockholm theatres, 1895-1926. Ranft built his commercially funded theatrical empire in Stockholm in a period when the competition from subsidized theatre was minimal, and for a time dominated the Stockholm theatres. The study demonstrates how the study of employment contracts allows us to form an understanding of power relations between managers on the one hand, and artists and directors on the other, and also the formal and social aspects of the employment contracts. In the case of Albert Ranft, the contracts bear evidence of his dominant position in Stockholm theatre, which in turn afforded him an unusually powerful position in relation to his employees. The relationship between the formal and social contract is explored, and it is suggested that the formal contract could be seen as a photographic negative of the social contract: if there is an extensive social contract, the formal contract will be more elaborate, and vice versa. The extensive formal contracts of the studied period might therefore be seen as evidence of a relatively thin social contract, implying that industry norms were, at the time, not institutionalized enough to be taken for granted.
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