In the second half of the 18th century, the Stockholm retail trades started to organise themselves in legal corporations, called trade societies. In this, they were frequently opposed by the State. Swedish society was still basically a corporatist society, based on privileged bodies, with defined functions and rights. Corporations on a concrete level, claiming legal status as intermediaries between the Individual and the public did, however, not fit into the plans of the State anymore. This dissertation deals with the following problems concerning this late addition to the corporate world of early-modern Sweden: What were the driving forces behind this corporate formation? And what were its consequences, for the relations between corporation and individual on the one hand, and between the corporations and the public on the other?
The theoretical framework includes a discussion concerning conflicting conceptions of property. I will argue that the corporate ideals presuppose an 'embedded' notion of property, whereas 'new' ideas of property as a purely material commodity were starting to make their way into 18th century Swedish society. The second theoretical assumption is, that the action of the trade societies may be seen from a petite bourgeoisie perspective, where both the preconditions for their business and social status, as well as their collective action, show great affinity with that of advocates of petty property and small-scale business in the late 19th and early 20th century.
I will argue that the combined phenomena of perceived relative deprivation and subsequent real economic hardship proved conducive to the decision of the retail trades to start forming proper corporations, meaning legally recognised (and protected) occupational associations. This process included a shift of strategy, as the trade societies turned inward: A closer adherence to the question of a moral economy, and claims to mutuality and surveillance within the society, were combined with strengthened claims concerning the question of credentials and professional skill.
In their relations to individuals, the trade societies were obvious exponents of the patriarchal society. Young men within the retail trades, although closely supervised, faced reasonably fair chances of one day becoming tradesmen, burgesses and members of the corporation. Where conformity was lacking, however, both corporations and individuals were prone to litigation. The strengthened legal position of the trade societies proved to be conducive also to strengthened position vis-à-vis individuals. During the latter part of the century, the municipal courts showed greater adherence to the arguments and statutes of the corporations.
The patriarchal system did also contain the relations between men and women. Here is introduced the concept of the corporate gender-order, for describing the trade societies' relations to women within and in the periphery of the corporation. Independent women, working outside any patriarchal control, was seen as a serious threat to the identity of these trades as exclusive, and as 'professions'. As a conclusion the retailers show a certain affinity with the petite bourgeoisie, in their individual as well as their collective behaviour.
Stads- och kommunhistoriska institutet , 2000. , 351 p.
Retail trades, legal corporations, corporatism, property, gender, moral economy, petite bourgeoisie, mercantilism, professionalisation