The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Deep Restoration: from The Great Implosion to The Great Awakening

We are living in a time of exception. A time when the existing order is open to question. In this short essay, originally published by Globalizations, Barry Gills makes some initial reflections in response to the present ‘triple conjuncture’ of global crises. This triple conjuncture is an interaction among three spheres or vectors of global crises, together constituting a crisis of capitalist world order. The three spheres of the global crisis are: climate change and ecological breakdown; a systemic crisis of global capitalism and neoliberal economic globalization; and the current global pandemic of covid-19. The three spheres are deeply interrelated and now rapidly interacting. Their combined effects will bring radical systemic transformation. What do these crises represent? How do we understand the meaning and causes of this comprehensive global crisis?

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Higher Education in the UK and its inability to respond to the crisis

As people are trying to come to terms with the pandemic of the coronavirus, we are told that we are all in the same boat. Higher Education in the UK is no exception in this respect. Messages by key university administrators attempt to instil a collective ‘we’ feeling in view of the challenges ahead. And yet, while staff work extra hours up and down the country to facilitate the shift to online teaching, leading universities have already started to lay off employees. It is the most vulnerable colleagues first, those on fixed-term, often zero hours contracts, who are told at short notice that their services are no longer required. How can we understand these, at first sight, contradictory tendencies?

Photo by Geoff  Whalan

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

The day the EU lost its moral authority

The pictures could have been hardly more dramatic on 2 March 2020. Syrian refugees in a fragile boat in open sea are desperate for help and yet they are greeted with canon fire by a hostile Greek coastguard. The day fire was opened on vulnerable people on the EU’s border is the day, the European project lost its moral authority. How did it happen that a project established to overcome war between European countries had lost its moral compass to such an extent?

Friday, 20 March 2020

Capitalism and its response to crises: Who pays?

The global economy is yet again under severe pressure. While it was the global financial market crisis, which shook the global economy to its core in 2007/2008, it is now the coronavirus, which has increasingly undermined capitalist accumulation. With countries forced to implement strong control measures, closing their borders and asking people to stay at home, the global economy based on production in global value chains is more and more under pressure. Job losses in the airlines industry are likely to be only the first signs of rising unemployment with the whole travel industry under immediate pressure. As in 2007/2008, governments are committed to investing large amounts of money in order to keep the economy afloat for the benefit of everyone, as they argue. Nevertheless, what can we learn from the experience of more than ten years ago?

Photo by Sergio Santos

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Re-enchanting the world: Silvia Federici on Feminism and the Politics of the Commons.

In her recent volume Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons (PM Press, 2019), Silvia Federici fruitfully brings together feminist reflections with discussions of the commons as a possible way of overcoming capitalism. In this blog post, I will introduce the main lines of thinking in this impressive collection of essays.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Water privatization in Jyväskylä, Finland?

Photo by Sampo Sikiö
Jyväskylä is the first Finnish municipality, which has decided to part-privatize its water services, intending to sell 30 per cent of the municipal company. What may look as an attractive option at first sight to generate finance for the municipality, is however a potentially highly dangerous initiative. The experiences of water privatizations elsewhere in Europe counsel caution.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

What’s worse than being a casual worker in academia? Being an outsourced casual worker in academia.

In June 2019, the University and College Union (UCU) released a report, Counting the costs of casualisation in higher education. It details the increasing precarity of work in the HE sector, and vividly lays bare the prevalent use of “atypical” employment/engagement practices by UK universities. Of note is the report’s observation of the widespread use of casual worker arrangements and the role of doctoral research students within this landscape:

“Many [atypical academics] are PhD students, teaching during their studies, dependent on their teaching earnings to fund their studies. Many are also contracted as ‘casual workers’, a form of zero hours contract that means that they are paid by the assignment, like temps, and have fewer employment rights. Prominent universities that use casual worker status include UCL, Warwick, Birmingham, and Nottingham among others.” In this guest post, Robert Stenson outlines his experience as a ‘casual worker’ at Nottingham University.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Globalization and Labour in the 21st century: Reflections on Verity Burgmann.

Verity Burgmann has produced an excellent, broad coverage of different instances of resistance by labour movements from around the world in her book Globalization and Labour in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge, 2016). It includes accounts of occupied factories in Argentina, opposition to privatisation of oil facilities in Iraq, as well as anti-austerity struggles in Greece amongst many others. It covers private industries as well as public sectors and explores the potential of new social media for resistance. In this blog post, I will provide some critical reflections on this major account of labour movements' potential role in the 21st century.