Cowie, Jefferson: 2012-2013 Small Grant


Jefferson Cowie (Department of History)

Project Title: 
Worth Your Salt: A Global History of the Wage from Ancient Times to the Present
Project Abstract: 
Worth Your Salt is a proposed book project that will trace the evolution of the wage across the immense time and space between the salarium-the ancient Roman practice of paying soldiers in salt from which we derive the term "salary"-to the latter-day injunction to be "worth one's salt" that emerged thousands of years later in midst of the industrial revolution. For some, the wage was an emancipation, for others a form of slavery, but the contest over its meaning, its morality, its calculation, and its justice as a means of distributing goods and services has never stopped. More than an economic history, this book will serve as a philosophical inquiry into the ways one group of people gets another people to do the work of the world. The need for a historical perspective on contemporary upheavals in global work and compensation should make this a particularly compelling stream of inquiry.