To what contemporary organization can we compare a guild?

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herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The workers' unions we have today are the 21st century version of guilds. Guilds can be traced back a long way, but in Victorian times, for example, every worker who had a specific skill would belong to a guild (union) in order to protect their clientele, their work space, and their rights.

One modern organization that can be an example of a modern "guild" is the Federal Education Association (FEA). What happens is that if a teacher is asked by an administrator to perform duties outside their scheduled paid hours, the teacher has the right to contact their union representative to question the purpose of the task. If the organization itself does not require the services of the employee, and it is proven that it was the administrator's own whim who asked for it, then the administrator could be held liable for unfair practices, and could be fired.

In essence, a guild and union are like a "neighborhood watch" to ensure that the administrative privileges of an employer are carried out under the premises of the contract which the employee signed.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I suppose the most obvious comparison would be to a labor union.  However, this is not, in my opinion, a very close comparison.  Most modern labor unions are not nearly as closed and exclusive as the medieval guilds were.

To me, you would have to cross a modern labor union with something like an exclusive country club to get to what a guild used to be.  Guilds used to be almost heriditary in their membership.  They were also able to exercise really strong control over who entered them and over who practiced the trade that they controlled.  So for that last part maybe you would have to add in a regulatory agency (government) also.

So maybe a guild can be compared to a union (represented members of some trade), a country club (very exclusive) and a government agency (set rules for its trade).

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Guilds refers to a system of associations of people with common interest or who were engaged in the same work. Guild were formed to promote common interests of its members. This system of guilds developed in middle ages in Europe. Guilds were formed to promote interest of different types such as those of merchants, craftsmen, charity and religions. However the system of guilds is most commonly associated with merchants guilds and craft guilds.

Merchant guilds were formed to promote the interest of all the businessmen in a town. Craft guilds were formed to promote the interests of people of the same craft or trade such as hatters, skinners, weavers, ironmongers and mercers.

I believe the the contemporary organizations that are closest to the guilds of the past are trade and industry associations that have membership restricted to individuals and organizations from the same trade, industry or professions. These associations also include associations of professionals such as physicians, lawyers, and chartered accountants that also do the work of certify or licensing the people authorised to engage in a trade. Such agencies usually also enforce a professional code of conduct among their members.

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