By Professor Chris Phillipson
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Additional info for Capitalism and the Construction of Old Age
8, 29. 8 (Karn, 1977). Such are the ironies of the class structure. Old age, while moving some to the workhouse, moved others to the sea, leaving, though, for the majority in between the weary monotony enforced by life around the poverty line. 22 CAPITALISM AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF OLD AGE RETIREMENT AND THE LABOUR MOVEMENT Despite the inadequacy of pensions, changes in production methods, combined with the depression, forced many workers into retirement. Thane ( 197 8) suggests that the spread of pensions at all occupational levels - from the late nineteenth century onwards -is best explained by growing demands for greater efficiency and increased productivity in a variety of occupations.
486, col. 849) There was no suggestion of a happy retirement here. On the contrary, the association of retirement with premature senility became an increasing concern in this period. The possibility of withdrawal from work having potentially disastrous effects on the individual had earlier been noted by Sheldon in his pioneering work Social Medicine of Old Age. He wrote: Bearing in mind what has already been said about the importance of an adequate mental urge for the maintenance of physical health, one need have no surprise at the wellknown sight of the man who retires, apparently healthy, from a profession or business to which he has devoted his life, and then dies for no particular reason in the next few years.
They also believed that workmen's compensation legislation, introduced in 1897, requiring employers to insure against accidents at work, made employers eager to lay-off older and possible accidentprone workers. Employers both introduced occupational pensions and pressed for a state scheme as this would let them lay off older workers with clear consciences. (Thane,1978,p. 236) Peter Stearns (1975), in his study of industrialisation between 1890 and 1919, reported older workers being threatened by the obsolesence of their skills and by work speed-up.
Capitalism and the Construction of Old Age by Professor Chris Phillipson