Precarity

Affective Labor, Michael Hardt

  • focus on the production of affects in our labor and our social practices has often served as a useful ground for anticapitalist projects, in the context of discourses, for instance, on desire or on use-value. Affective labor is itself and directly the constitution of communities and collective subjectivities
  • the productive circuit of affect and value has thus seemed in many respects as an autonomous circuit for the constitutions of subjectivity, alternative to the processes of capitalist valorization

  • although affective labor as never been entirely outside of capitalist production, the processes of economic postmodernization that have been in course for the past twenty-five years have positioned affective labor in a role that is not only directly productive of capital but at the very pinnacle of the hierarchy of laboring forms.
  • affective labor – “immaterial labor” – has assumed a dominant position with respect to the other forms of labor in the global capitalist economy
  • succession of economic paradigms in the dominant capitalist countries since the Middle Ages: a first paradigm –  agriculture and the extraction of raw materials dominated the economy; a second paradigm – industry and the manufacture of durable goods occupied the privileged position; the current paradigm – providing services and manipulating information are at the heart of economic production
  • primary – process of modernization/industrialisation -> secondary -process of postmodernization/informatization -> tertiary production
  • since the production of services results in no material and durable good, we might define the labor involved in this production an immaterial labor
  • the model of the computer – one face of communicational and immaterial labor involved in the production of services; the other face – the affective labor of human contact and interaction ->  health services – rely centrally on caring and affective labor; the entertainment industry/ various culture industries – focused on the creation and manipulation of affects
  • immaterial labor – its products are intangible: a feeling of ease, well-being, satisfaction, excitement, passion – even a sense of connectedness or community -> the creation and manipulation of affects
  • three types of immaterial labor that drive the service sector at the top of the informational economy: the first is involved in an industrial production that has been informationalized and has incorporated communication technologies in a way that transforms the industrial production process itself; the second one – the immaterial labor of analytical and symbolic tasks, which itself breaks down into creative and intelligent manipulation and routine symbolic tasks; the third type involves the production and manipulation of affects and requires human contact and proximity
  • biopower = the potential of affective labor, the power of creation of life, the production o collective subjectivities, sociality, and society itself
  • biopower (Foucault) = patria potestas – the right of the father over the life and death of children and servants
  • biopower = the power of the emerging governmentality to create, manage, and control populations, the power to manage life
  • the labor of biopolitical production is strongly configured as gendered labor

 

Life is a pitch: Managing the self in new media work, Rosalind Gill

  • I use ‘management’ here not in its conventional or ‘business school’ sense but with a more critical inflection that comes from Marxist, feminist and poststructuralist thinking. I’m interested in how workers themselves manage lives that are characterised by processes of speeding up, intensification and contingency. Using a Foucauldian optic, I will suggest that working in new media involves multiple practices of managing the self in conditions of radical uncertainty
  • Transformations in advanced capitalism under the impact of globalisation, rapidly developing information and communication technologies, and changing modes of political and economic governance are producing a situation in which increasing numbers of workers in affluent societies are in insecure casual or intermittent employment
  • new media workers –  the forerunners of ‘the future of work’ — exemplars of the move away from traditional notions of career to more informal precarious and intermittent employment; poster girls and boys for a future in which the need to constantly train and retrain, updating skills and knowledge, will be an ongoing requirement; immaterial labourers in informational capitalism and iconic members of ‘the precarious generation’ , potential subjects in a new ‘precariat’ that may yet pose a threat to capitalism
  • It is popularly regarded as exciting and cutting edge work, and its practitioners are seen as artistic, young and „cool‟
  • The work itself is seen as creative and autonomous, and working environments and relationships as relaxed and non-hierarchical
  • work biographies in new media are extremely rich and complex, and bear little resemblance to traditional notions of the ‘career’ with their expectations of linear development and progression of the hierarchy.
  • insecurity was a defining feature of freelancers lives
  • Andy Pratt (2002) has called a ‘bulimic’ style of working
  • These were the phrases ‘it’s all down to who you know’ and ‘you are only as good as your last job’ (Blair, 2001)
  • The requirement to network and build contacts also brings other pressures, named by Melissa Gregg (2006) as the ‘compulsory sociality’ of the neoliberal workplaces, in which one can never really switch off or relax, and one is never totally away from work
  • new media workplaces have turned out to be characterised by a number of entrenched and all too old-fashioned patterns of inequality relating to gender, age, class, race and ethnicity and disability. – a number of new forms of inequality emerging relating it to precisely the features of work that are most highly valued — autonomy, flexibility and informality
  • I argue that for these workers material conditions of radical uncertainty lead to an inability to project ahead into the future in a realistic or meaningful way, and suggest that this constitutes one of the new but hidden injuries of precarious work
  • There is no time when you can switch off, because all of life has become a „social factory‟ (Tronti 1966), an opportunity for work.

Student as Worker: Wages for Homework, Tim Grant

  • for students, housewives and other workers who receive no wage, the absence of a wage has made it appear that we work only “for ourselves”, or for husbands and children in the case of housewives
  • As in the case of housewives, our lack of a wage has hidden the work we do in school, and has often defined us as parasites on the backs of our parents and the taxpayers.
  • More fundamentally, it is work because as students, we are actively engaged in producing a very important product — ourselves — as a specifically trained segment of the future labour force.
  • While the work we do in schools appears to be for our own benefit, it is our future employers, who need our skills and self-discipline, who are the real beneficiaries of our work.
  • When a university degree fails to deliver the wages which can satisfy neither men’s ‘investment’ nor women’s ‘hope’, we both confront the reality of schoolwork as unpaid work.
  • The difference between all these forms of wages for schoolwork and an explicit wage for schoolwork is that they all assume that schooling is a privilege rather than work, so we should be glad to receive less than welfare and accumulate large debts. When we demand wages for schoolwork, we make clear that schoolwork is a job like any other job, and that we want a lot more money than mere subsistence.
  • The idea that we should get wages for schoolwork is not something that fell out of the clouds. It emerges precisely at the time when the state is trying to impose more work for less money on all workers, waged and wageless — through transit fare increases and reduced services, daycare cutbacks, rising food prices and energy prices, and wage controls.

We Are All Precarious – On The Concept Of The ‘Precariat’ And Its Misuses, Richard Seymour

  • I will argue that it is mistaken to treat the precariat as a class.  Attempts to make it into a class are theoretically incoherent, and the facts of precarious labour and social precarity are misunderstood if boxed into an ‘emerging class’ thesis.
  • A widespread intuition, however, is that we are in a qualitatively new phase of development, in which the marginal has become the core – encompassing, according to some estimates, perhaps as many as a quarter of workers.  Denoted by a family of terms such as ‘McJobs’, ‘junk jobs’, ‘flexiworking’, and so on, this adverts to the transformation of labour markets by the technological, spatial and organisational re-structuring of capitalism.
  • Post-Fordist capitalism, it is argued, has increasingly dispensed with long-term employment, as managers and administrators have sought to make production more flexible.  Particularly in the service sector, from hotels and catering to cleaning and low-grade office jobs, more and more tasks are ‘contracted out’ to firms which hire workers on a casual and temporary basis.  Positions once occupied by full-time workers are taken by temps for months at a time. -> a dynamically expanding stratum of workers who, while often well educated, are insecure, lack prospects, and form transient modes of existence out of fragmentary work and social lives.  With little corporate loyalty, and only light group solidarity among themselves, this is a highly individualistic class-in-the-making.  Their sociality, at least in the core capitalist economies, takes the form of ‘networking’, predicated on social media, rather than the ‘communities’ of out-moded forms of working class life.

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