They were ‘improved’, punished and cured
The construction of ‘workshy’, ‘industrious’ and (non-)compliant inmates in forced labour facilities in the First Republic of Austria between 1918 and 1933
in Work, psychiatry and society, c. 1750–2015
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Like in psychiatric institutions, work was used in forced labour facilities to “improve” the inmates. During the interwar period, people convicted for begging and vagrancy could be imprisoned and subsequently detained in a forced labour institution with the aim of getting the supposedly “workshy” used to an industrious life. However, deviations from the expected attitude towards work was not the only reason for being detained in such facilities, and improvement through work was not the only idea of improvement in these institutions. People could also be locked up because they were assumed not to care for their families or considered dangerous or sexually deviant. Improvement could be understood in a broader, moral way. So work was, as the chapter shows, not the primary goal of forced labour institutions, but part and expression of a more general demand for a morally compliant way of living.

Editor: Waltraud Ernst


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