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Affective Labor


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Affective Labor

  1. 1. Affective labour: Past and present Dr Melissa Gregg, University of Sydney, Australia
  2. 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. 3. Other kinds of “unfree” labour - Undocumented migrants - Conscription - Containment - Students - Critically ill - Work-fare regimes (Cooper & Waldby 2009)
  4. 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. 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. 6. Ehrenreich & Hochschild
  7. 7. Cooper & Waldby, 2009 “Clinical labour” – cell harvesting, fertility outsourcing, commercial surrogacy, egg vending, etc Coerced? Voluntary? Donated? Gift exchange? Compensation or wages?
  8. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 14. “100 doesn‟t sound like a lot.”
  15. 15. “Otherwise it would just get on top of me.”
  16. 16. “You don‟t want to hold up the work.”
  17. 17. “It almost gives me peace of mind that I don‟t have something really big waiting for me.”
  18. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 24. And the impact of recession…
  25. 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. 26. A labour politics to fit a state of exception…