For some of us, as cultural producers the idea of a permanent job in an institution is something that we do not even consider, or at most for a few years. Afterward, we want something different. Hasn’t the idea always been about not being forced to commit oneself to one thing, one classical job definition, which ignores so many aspects; about not selling out and consequently being compelled to give up the many activities that one feels strongly about? Wasn’t it important to not adapt to the constraints of an institution, to save the time and energy to be able to do the creative and perhaps political projects that one really has an interest in? Wasn’t a more or less well-paying job gladly taken for a certain period of time, when the opportunity arose, to then be able to leave again when it no longer fit? Then there would at least be a bit of money there to carry out the next meaningful project, which would probably be poorly paid, but supposedly more satisfying.
In this decade, especially in the last five years, European social movements have developed increasingly on the issue of flexibilization of labor. These movements are clearly a response to neo-liberalization and the reduction of welfare and the so–called “social rights” acquired, after intense struggle, by citizens of the industrialized countries during the 20th century (Hobsbawn, Piven and Cloward). In Italy in particular, several new laws and tax measures passed over this period have transformed the workplace both qualitatively and quantitatively, particularly through the proliferation of temp-agencies and new types of short-term contracts. While a number of books and research have focused on how these shifts have impacted the workforce in general (Tiddi, Zanini, Chaincrew, Accornero), a gendered approach is uncommon and underdeveloped (Allegrini 2005). By bringing gender into the analysis of precarity, I intend to address its multiple dimensions, especially the aspects of precarity that impact everyday life and social reproduction. This approach stems from previous traditions of feminist research and aims to avoid any reductionist equation of precariousness as simply a dreadful condition of labor *1. By analyzing the emerging discourses in the new precarity movement, I intend to provide here some useful insights, eventhough any analysis of such a recently born movement can not provide but a specific depiction of concrete cases. My analysis is centered around the ideas of gender and generations, as two important dimensions defining the emerging movement.
The discourse on precarization that has emerged in the past decade, primarily in Europe, rests on an extremely complex understanding of social insecurity and its productivity. The various strands of this discourse have been brought together again and again in the context of the European precarious movement organized under EuroMayDay.1 This transnational movement, in existence since the early 2000s, thematizes precarious working and living conditions as the starting point for political struggles and seeks possibilities for political action in neoliberal conditions. What is unusual about this social movement is not only the way in which under its auspices new forms of political struggles are tested and new perspectives on precarization developed; rather—and this is striking in relation to other social movements—it is how it has queered the seemingly disparate fields of the cultural and the political again and again. In the past decade, conversations concerning both the (partly subversive) knowledge of the precarious, and a search for commons (in order to constitute the political), has conspicuously taken place more often in art institutions than in social, political, or even academic contexts.
Changes within the energy sector are speeding up dramatically. A combination of ecological, political, economic and financial factors are converging to ensure that energy production and consumption are set to become central to global political, economic and financial dynamics.
Marx died over his chapter on class in volume III of Capital. The analysis of capitalism is with necessity a class analysis (Ritsert, 1988) and generations of Marxists have sought to supply the Marxist 'definition' of class. I use the term 'definition' here with critical intent. How might it be possible to define 'class' within a critical project which emphasises that theoretical mysteries find their rational explanation in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice (cf. Marx, 1975, p. 5)? The 'definition' of the working class would require at least one additional definition, namely that of capital representing the other side of the class divide. Marx's critique of political economy showed that definitions of capital are self-contradictory and tautological. Might definitions of the working class not suffer a similar fate?
Aufheben's review and critique of The beginning of history: Value struggles and global capital by Massimo De Angelis, Pluto Press, London, 2007.
48 Hours of Common Effort: How Cultural Workers and Political Activists Met and Talked The entire spectrum of problems connected with the condition of creative workers has recently become the focus of fundamental discussions and reflections on the part of the artistic community as well as a number of leftist political and social activists. These discussions have revealed points of convergence between creative workers and workers engaged in nonstandard forms of employment, which have become more and more widespread in Russia. The search for new ways of regrouping radical leftists, trade unions, and social movements makes new forms of dialogue possible. The 48-Hour May Congress-Commune of Creative Workers was the first initiative to task itself with tackling both theoretically and practically the host of problems connected with the nature of the work done by cultural workers and labor relations in the cultural field.
I have chosen to focus the thoughts I will develop today on a fact that I consider fundamental for every other discourse concerning women’s autonomy. That is: for women, in every part of the world, the construction of autonomy has meant first of all the re-appropriation of their body; it has meant to have the availability of that female body which has always been at stake in the relation between the sexes. This was true for us at the beginning of the ‘70s in Italy, as it was for the Mayan women when they began to draft their law, at the beginning of the ‘90s in Chiapas. To mention here and compare some aspects of our problematic and struggles on this terrain could be useful then in a battle that for us, as for them, as for many other women in many other countries, has reached important goals, but is far from being concluded. When I read the Revolutionary Law of the Mayan Women, I was struck by the very close correspondence between the demands presented in it, as well as the others that were being all along elaborated, and our own demands at the dawn of the 1970s. We, like them, had to unite as women in a movement in order to lift ourselves out of our pain and impotence. Impotence was the very problem we had witnessed in the lives of our mothers. It was the impotence due to the lack of money that made any choice, even running away from violent husbands or fathers, impossible. It was the impotence of not knowing our sexuality, which made marriages fail, but was beyond remedy as the counterpart were men who knew nothing about female sexuality1. And again the impotence of not being able to communicate, as it was a taboo to speak with other women of too intimate things; the impotence coming from the stigmatization of life outside of marriage, which forced our mothers to move, still very young, from the house of their father to that of their husband, without ever having a chance to find out who they were and what they wanted; the impotence of finding themselves mothers just nine months after their marriage, without ever having known themselves as women –-pre-matrimonial ‘virginity’ being a social imperative; the impotence of being subjected to violence in or out of the family, but not being able to speak about it, not to expose the family to a scandal and not to be guilt-tripped by other men, starting with the judges and the policemen; the impotence of being subjected to sexual harassment on the job, but not being able to afford to loose it. All these are issues that, despite great differences as far as social contexts and life conditions, stand out clearly in the demands and debates that are developing among Mayan women.
Our Story is Trauma In the fall of 2006, a man approached me in the late evening, shouted “CHINK!” and bashed my head open with a U-bolt bike lock. I was 23 years old at the time. I’m often tempted to consider this to be merely a case of Vincent Chin redux, since the circumstances of my assault—a young Asian-American victim, a stranger as the perpetrator, the trappings of a hate crime, the bludgeoning of the head—are remarkably similar, save one difference: Vincent Chin was killed, and I survived. The significance is not lost on me; indeed, with each day I may still write, still walk, still be present and sustain, the significance rarely ever escapes me. And yet, the more time passes and the more I dwell on it, the difference between Vincent and me—or Sean Bell, or Sanesha Stewart, to name a few—seems less and less apparent. For if Vincent had lived—lived in spite of a baseball bat cracking his skull half a dozen times, mind you—he would have surely found his resulting ‘life’ of exceeding trauma, fear, and despair to be questionable, at best. My own recovery, full of these miserable musings, has similarly made me wonder whether dying, as Vincent had, would have been preferable (i).
Marx’s ‘Fragment on Machines’, a section of the Grundrisse, is a crucial text for the analysis and definition of the Postfordist mode of production. Written in 1858, in the midst of a breathtaking series of political events, these reflections on the basic trends of capitalist development are not present in any of his other writings and in fact seem alternative to the habitual formula.