Centre for Development Studies

International & Interdisciplinary Research Network: Labour in Transition (LITTINet)

 

Principle Investigator: Dr Ana Dinerstein, University of Bath 

Research Team:

Maurizio Atzeni (National Research Council, Argentina)  
Suzanne Bergeron (Women's and Gender Studies, University of Michigan-Dearborn, USA)
Sávio Machado Cavalcante (University of Campinas, Brazil)
Greig Charnock (University of Manchester)
Ana C. Dinerstein (University of Bath)
Nora Fernández (Institute for Ecuadorian Studies, Quito, Ecuador)
Andréia Galvão (University of Campinas, Brazil)
Graham Jeffery (University of the West of Scotland)
Theodoros Karyotis (Independent Researcher, Thessaloniki)
Karolos Kavoulakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)
Ravi Kumar (South Asian University, New Delhi, INDIA)                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ricard Moren-Alegret (University Autónoma of Barcelona)                                                                                                                                                                                                                   José Marcos Novelli (Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar)
Hernán Ouviña (Institute for Latin American and Caribean Studies, Buenos Aires)
Theo Papadopoulos (University of Bath)
Ben Parry (Bath Spa University)
F. Harry Pitts (University of Bristol)
Nicky Stubbs (University of Bath)
Jeanne van Hiiswijk and Annet Otterl (Freehouse and Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative,  South Rotterdam, Netherlands)

Overview of the project

The LITIINet was established at a research workshop convened by Dr Dinerstein (Bath) and Dr Taylor (UWE), and funded by the Accelerating International Research Collaboration Scheme, University of Bath’s International Relations Office, in September 2015. The initial network was subsequently consolidated through workshops, meetings and research trips to Barcelona, Sao Paolo, New Delhi, Rotterdam and Buenos Aires in order to draw on the expertise and experience of academics, practitioners and artists in the formulation of research project design.

We are political sociologists, geographers, political scientists, economists, political economists, curators, artists and educators committed to social justice and social change. We work in higher education with social movements and organisations in the North (Greece, Netherlands, Spain, UK and USA) and in the South (Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, India).  

The global neo-liberal restructuring and the 2008 financial crisis has transformed capitalist work and has weakened the relationship between employment and the reproduction of daily ‘life’ or social reproduction. This has resulted in a marked increase in precarious and insecure employment. Where this has developed most intensely, it has challenged the sustainability of formal waged employment and associated forms of citizenship and welfare as the principal means by which the individual survival and social reproduction of urban communities is achieved. Consequently, informal employment in many places has become normalized and can be related to a range of activities undertaken by social actors that are attempting to address this crisis of social reproduction. State policies focused on austerity and the reform of industrial relations systems have resulted in an increase in precarious and flexible employment conditions. 

The dynamic of financialization has resulted in the relocation of the industrial working class to the global South and migrant workers displaced from the rural regions of places such as India, China and South Africa (Ness, 2016) are subject to low wages, insecure work and increasing unemployment, casualization, poverty and destitution. The global transformation of work has been more devastating in the global South, and global convergence around these conditions is also leading to the ‘Brazilianization of the North’ (Munck, 2000) manifested in an intensification of unemployment and poverty. In places where the rupture between employment and social reproduction has been most intense, the issue of how to organize productive activities in order to ensure survival has been forced back on urban communities and the temporal and spatial organization of ‘work’ has escaped the limits of formal working time and space. Scholars have explored the conditions of insecurity, poverty and unemployment imposed upon individuals, families and communities and have developed concepts such as the ‘precariat’ (Standing, 2009, 2011, 2014), ‘urban outcasts’ (Wacquant, 2008) and ‘surplus humanity’ (Davis, 2006) to capture these developments. 

However, in the cities of the Global South, the organization of new productive activities beyond the formal workplace have become linked with issues such as poverty, hardship and exclusion and have resulted in collective actions and mobilizations related to issues such as housing, food, land, education and health. These ‘survival strategies’ are increasingly spreading to areas of the Global North as formal employment opportunities have been undermined by the impact of the global crisis and subsequent austerity policies.  

We believe that these alternatives are a source of knowledge and experience that can feed into alternative forms of policy. 

This is particularly important in light of the severe crisis of social reproduction (Zechner and Hansen, n/d) manifested in a situation in which employment is unable to support subsistence across wide sections of the developed and developing world (Caffentzis, 2013; Fraser, 2014). The concept of social reproduction has been central to critical feminist analyses of how waged labour is underpinned by the exploitation of women within the family (Vogel, 2014; Dalla Costa & James, 1973; Dalla Costa, 1975; Federici, 1995; James, 1975), the ways in which labour power is biologically, socially and generationally reproduced (Ferguson, 2016; and McNally, 2014; Federici and Sitrin, 2016) and the historical importance of the female body (Federici, 2004) to the process of primitive accumulation and the dispossession of free labourers (Marx, 1990). This ongoing process of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ (Harvey, 2005) results in workers being dispossessed through the constant ‘enclosure’ of the common means of meeting individual and social needs and underpins the compulsion for workers to sell their labour-power in order to live (Dalla Costa, 1995). ‘Social reproduction feminisms’ (Ferguson, 2016) have advanced an expanded version of reproduction beyond procreation and domestic work in order to develop a broader  understanding of social reproduction (Vogel, 2014; Federici, 2012; Fergusson & McNally, 2014; Fraser, 2014, 2016; Bhattacharya, 2015). This emphasises that the separation of the worker from the means of their subsistence is not a singular moment of dispossession (Bhattacharya, 2015), but there are a range of relationships and institutions that comprise the circuit of social reproduction including social and personal care, health services, education, cultural organizations,  leisure, pensions, benefits, coops, allotments, free kitchens and city farms. 

Our work focuses on the various dimensions of the abovementioned  developments in order to capture some of the affirmative and proactive collective strategies that are attempting to reorganize work and life beyond employment. These initiatives mark the emergence of a new politics of work based on new organizations and struggles for dignity and solidarity. Cooperative activities are crisscrossing urban spaces in creative and innovative ways to become permanent features of the city and are leading to alternative forms of organizing work and working. The dominant tendency in both academic and state policy discourse has been to define these developments in terms of the ‘problem’ of informal work and workers. This, however, tends to downplay the transformatory role of the social actors involved in these projects and initiatives and the ways in which these emerging forms of ‘work’ outside employment, including cultural production, contributes to the social reproduction and reimagination of communities. 

 

Intended outputs and impacts

  • Publications in English and Translation
  • Exhibitions
  • Website
  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • ESRC Grant application: Beyond Informality: Organising life and work I urban spaces (Work in Progress. 1/5/17)
     

For further information about this project:

Principle Investigator Dr Ana Dinerstein