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Affective Labor

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  • 1. Affective labour: Past and present Dr Melissa Gregg, University of Sydney, Australia
  • 2. Prehistory Informal labour, reproductive labour, care work. Domestic/ unregulated spheres Relevant feminist scholarship: - Philosophy: Home as historical basis for women‟s oppression (eg, Irigaray, Beauvoir, Young) - The Sociology of Housework Oakley (1973) - Marxist/ Materialist Feminism: Barrett (1980), Delphy (1984), Harstock (1983) - Wages for housework campaigns (ongoing)
  • 3. Other kinds of “unfree” labour - Undocumented migrants - Conscription - Containment - Students - Critically ill - Work-fare regimes (Cooper & Waldby 2009)
  • 4. Leopoldina Fortunati, 2007 immaterial labour includes „cleaning the house, cooking, shopping, washing and ironing clothes‟ and the labour required to produce individuals: „sex, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and care‟ the immaterial sphere also includes „affect, care, love, education, socialization, communication, information, entertainment, organization, planning, coordination, logistics‟ (144)
  • 5. Fortunati, cont‟d • the adoption and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the home “remove[s] the human body from education, communication, information, entertainment and other immaterial aspects of domestic labor” (147) • women‟s work should not be reduced to the body (affect) but nor should technology replace the human dimensions of care work
  • 6. Ehrenreich & Hochschild
  • 7. Cooper & Waldby, 2009 “Clinical labour” – cell harvesting, fertility outsourcing, commercial surrogacy, egg vending, etc Coerced? Voluntary? Donated? Gift exchange? Compensation or wages?
  • 8. “Clinical labour” - highlights the limitations of Fordist models as social reproduction enters the formal market on a global scale - emphasises the racial and class specificity of affective/ immaterial labour - biological reproduction has been outsourced (Cooper & Waldby 2009)
  • 9. Kathi Weeks, 2007 Regardless of whether it was ever adequate, especially under the conditions of post-Fordist production, the very same practices deemed unproductive in one site [now] directly produce value in another and thus this simple distinction between what is inside or outside the circuits of capitalist valorization becomes increasingly untenable (238)
  • 10. The working from home study 2007-2009 27 workers, various ages/positions, public and private sector, all in information, communication and education industries Findings to be published in Work’s Intimacy, Polity Press (forthcoming 2010)
  • 11. Key findings Workers who used online technology to work outside the office reported a significant impact on home life and an inability to “switch off” from work Stress and anxiety was particularly apparent in mid-level employees and junior workers. Online technology exacerbated feelings of responsibility for timely communication within the organisation – leading to chronic email monitoring outside the office and difficulties with relaxation and sleep Mid-level employees were dealing with large amounts of email generated within their own organisation by superiors with more financial and administrative support
  • 12. Key findings Part-time workers reported regular work contact during days off. This was especially prominent in women looking after children at home. Women felt “lucky” to work part-time even though they were regularly doing unrecognised work. The heightened pace of online communication had not been factored in to the roles of part-time office workers. Most workers did not consider checking work email at home to be “work”.
  • 13. “I start at about half past six in the morning and do an hour or so before I leave to go to work and that‟s mainly just clearing emails and things like that so I can start the day ready to do „work‟.”
  • 14. “100 doesn‟t sound like a lot.”
  • 15. “Otherwise it would just get on top of me.”
  • 16. “You don‟t want to hold up the work.”
  • 17. “It almost gives me peace of mind that I don‟t have something really big waiting for me.”
  • 18. “I will sleep better if I spend an hour or an hour and a half at night just getting on top of that.”
  • 19. I think that the anxiety I have with emails is absolutely ridiculous. I just think it‟s stupid; I should get over it. I don‟t think it‟s something that‟s placed upon me; I think it‟s truly a personal manifestation.
  • 20. Affective labour in the digital era anticipatory: strategies of preparation and recovery outside formal work hours to cope with ceaseless communication demands prospective: networking and skills upgrades outside formal work hours to maintain employability through “churn” (employer, job role, or technology fashion)
  • 21. Technological change as state of exception When I had the last interview I think I‟d probably just joined Facebook… And now Facebook is so old hat, and Twitter‟s the latest thing. You‟ve got to be on Twitter. That‟s actually part of my job – I do the tweets for [the corporation]. So whatever comes along next, you‟ve got to do it. (Online journalist/ news producer)
  • 22. Technological change as state of exception It‟s not really at the stage where we have to have a separate Twitter shift or anything like that. But if we want to do it properly – if it turns out to be something that‟s going to stick around and isn‟t just a fad, then we have to look at incorporating it formally into some kind of work flow system. I was working the budget night and I was EP that night, and also Tweeting. I think next year if it‟s still around we‟ll probably have someone just doing Twitter. I was trying to do everything.
  • 23. In addition to established white collar affects… …perhaps because he does not know where he is going, he is in a frantic hurry; perhaps because he does not know what frightens him, he is paralysed with fear. C W Mills, White Collar (1973: xvi). See also: Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character (on anxiety) Alan Liu, The Laws of Cool (on cubicle politics)
  • 24. And the impact of recession…
  • 25. “Nothing is certain in this environment. I think anyone in the corporate environment at the moment would be mad to think that their job was secure, moving forward… Never, ever assume that you‟ve got a job for life or a job for 12 months.”
  • 26. A labour politics to fit a state of exception…

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