The Three Ages of Paternalism. Canteens and Workers’ Meals in Le Creusot (1860-1960)

By Stéphane Gacon, François Jarrige

The evolution of the organization of feeding constitutes a privileged observatory for thinking the paternalism and its reconfigurations between the mid-nineteenth century and the “Trente Glorieuses”. At Le Creusot, the paternalism of the Schneider family had generally been hostile to the canteen system. Canteens were accepted grudgingly during periods of exceptional crises, such as the two world wars. During peacetime, the firm emphasized the importance of taking meals at home, in support of a family model based on the nurturing role of the housewife. The canteen was mainly for foreign workers and single men. Only when corporate catering was generalized under the auspices of the State, in the context of a contractual economy, did this form of paternalism begin to disappear. The decree of October 5, 1960 made it mandatory for companies with more than 25 employees to provide them with a local restaurant, leading to the generalization of staff canteens.

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