Leo Grob is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of History, University of Bern. His research interests cover the history of labor management and labor and working-class history, the history of the Swiss domestic secret service, and the history of revolutionary utopias.
He holds a Sociology degree from the University of Zurich, a master’s degree in History from the University of Bern and has recently completed a PhD in History at the University of Bern. In his doctoral thesis, Leo explored the history of the Swiss aluminum company Alusuisse in Australia, Italy and Switzerland. Taking Alusuisse as a case study, his study sheds light on new forms of labor management practices and the shifting balance of power between labor and capital in the era of deindustrialization.
His current research focuses on the history of deindustrialization in Switzerland and on the history of radical imaginations since the Paris commune.
Let to Rust. A Labor and Knowledge History of Deindustrialization in Switzerland
Around 1970, Switzerland was one of the world’s most industrialized countries – with industrial production accounting for 40 percent of gross domestic product. This was to change in the following decades. The 1973- 75 crisis marked the beginning of a long-term decline in industry and around 1990 the share of industrial production in GDP decreased to 20 percent.
Although employment in the second sector declined markedly, and the world of work changed radically, both the history of deindustrialization and the stories and memories of workers affected by it remain a largely unknown territory in Swiss historiography and public memory.
The collaborative project of Andreas Fasel and Leo Grob addresses this gap. It examines deindustrialization in Switzerland from a double perspective, using the example of the canton of Valais:
From a history of knowledge perspective, we ask what concepts, semantics, and statistical categories the Valais authorities used to register and classify declining industrial employment, factory closures, and rising unemployment figures. We also examine the role of the authorities in shifting the burden of unemployment onto migrant workers.
From a labor history perspective, we examine the two most important industrial companies in Valais: Alusuisse and Lonza. On the basis of concrete plant closures, we shed light on the role of the trade unions as well as the experiences and memories of affected workers and local communities.