A Will of Their Own

Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Working Children

Manfred Liebel


This book shows how children's work can take on widely differing forms; and how it can both harm and benefit children. Differing in approach from most other work in the field, it endeavours to understand working children from their own perspective.

Author Bio

Manfred Liebel is Professor of Sociology at the Technical University of Berlin. His main area is international and intercultural research on childhood and youth. He is staff-member of the TU-Centre for Global Education and International Cooperation and consultant of working children and youth movements in Latin America and Africa.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Working children's movements in Africa, Latin America, and Asia
  • 2. Children's work from the perspective of social research: an international stock-taking
  • 3. The working child has a will of its own: subject oriented and participative research on children's work in Latin America
  • 4. Childhood and worn in non-Western cultures: the fruits of ethnological and anthropological research
  • 5. Working children in Europe - loss or new perspectives of childhood?
  • 6. Working children and adolescents in the USA - juggling school and work
  • 7. Work and play in the lives of children: reflections on an unfortunate separation and possible connections
  • 8. The economic exploitation of children: towards a subject-oriented praxis
  • 9. How working children resist exploitation and strive to share decisions about their work: experiences and examples from various continents and periods
  • 10. Ways to self-determined children's work? The significance and problems of educationally conceived work projects
  • 11. Thoughts on a subject-orinted theory of working children


'Manfred Liebel has produced a controversial and thought-provoking book which prioritizes working children's own views on their work situation. Drawing on an impressive range of empirical examples, Liebel eloquently articulates children's attitudes to and experiences of work in a diverse range of settings. By adopting a global focus that links children from countries in the North and South, Liebel challenges us to re-examine common taken-for-granted assumptions about children's work and indeed the concept of childhood itself.'
Madeleine Leonard, Queen's University

'This exciting book marks a new departure for ways of thinking about children's work in contemporary societies. By recognizing children as contributors with valuable skills, valuing their perspectives and views, it enables children's work to be taken seriously. Manfred Liebel doesn't shy away from discussing the negative aspects of children's work -- rather he tries to move the debates forward to enable children's views about the meaning of their work to be incorporated into future research and policies to protect them at work.'
Virginia Morrow, Brunel University

'Manfred Liebel's work exemplifies a rare and successful blend of passionate advocacy and creative thinking. A champion of the international working children's movement, he reaches a depth of analysis that is both interesting for academics and inspiring for activists, policy makers and the wider public. I am thrilled that the work of one of the major champions of NATS is now also available in English.'
O. Nieuwenhuys, University of Amsterdam

'Manfred Liebel's new book about childhood and work is very exciting reading. It gives the reader an excellent overview of the plight of children who are working in several continents and it places this important issue in both its theoretical and political contexts. An authoritative opus, indeed! Liebel's views are often controversial and are bound to arouse critical debate. He does not have cause to fear these debates, however, given his enormous insight into the topic.'
Jens Qvortrup, Norwegian University for Science and Technology


Publication Date: 1 October 2004
336 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781842773499
eBook ePub: 9781848138032
eBook PDF: 9781848131750
eBook Kindle: 9781780328898
Library Edition: 9781842773482

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