« The missing worker? U.S. manufacturing sees shortage of skilled factory workers - The Washington Post | Main | Banana Republic.com - Frank Pasquale on Zittrain (from 1/11) »

February 20, 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I'm a little perplexed that this sort of thing interests you any more after your enthusiasm over the Lawler essay. Would you mind explaining?

Jodi Dean

I don't understand the conflict or see why interest in one would preclude interest in another.


You seemed quite ready to dismiss (or at least downplay) the "jobs for all" demand because it wasn't inspiring and "fun" enough and it didn't mesh with, as you called it, "occupation as a practice that does not contribute to the production of profit" (not having a job doesn't contribute to the production of profit either, but I don't see lots of people eagerly quitting their jobs as a means to end capitalism). Now, you put up an item about more workers losing their jobs (or having formerly stable jobs turned into far more precarious ones) as if it's a bad thing that needs to be pointed out. I find this contradiction confusing, so I'd like a little clarification.

Jodi Dean

there are a bunch of reasons--I use this blog to think through things. I had been in favor of jobs for all (as an impossible demand that exposes the limits of capitalism), and then the Lawler essay made me reflect on its drawbacks as a demand. It didn't take off, didn't have sufficient appeal, and I think she had some good ideas as to why. Likewise, politically, I have not been on the side of the ultra left or those emphasizing "refusal of work." But their arguments have made me have to question some of what I've thought before.

A related example: in the 60s, in the context of the poor people's march on Washington, the demand was for "jobs for those who want them" not "jobs for all." To me, that demonstrates how the rightward shift of the country has contorted what we can imagine.

You are right, people as a rule don't quit their jobs to end capitalism. That's almost always because they don't have a way to live without the wages they earn under capitalism. And this is one of the contradictions in which capitalism traps us, making it very hard to find our way out. Hence, "trade union consciousness" both made labor strong through organization and worked to provide capital with a docile work force. The strike and the walkout, though, are ways that people stop doing their jobs in order to change capitalism (like the boycott endeavors to change elements of consumption, not to stop the consumption of a particular good permanently).

Exploitation of labor is the constitutive wrong of capitalism. Turning formerly stable jobs into precarious ones is highly exploitative. So then the political question concerns the ways to fight against this. There could be laws against temporary contracts, laws guaranteeing lots of rights and provisions to temporary workers, penalties attached to corporations that lay off people or have a percentage of their workforce on temporary contracts, state ownership of all enterprises and a guaranteed wage structure, a guaranteed minimal income independent of work, etc...


"I use this blog to think through things"

OK, I can understand that somewhat.

"And this is one of the contradictions in which capitalism traps us, making it very hard to find our way out."

I remember Doug Henwood quoting (I think) someone (apropos of uneven development between Africa and "The West", IIRC) who said "The only thing worse than being exploited by capitalism is not being exploited by capitalism".

"The strike and the walkout, though, are ways that people stop doing their jobs in order to change capitalism"

In themselves, though, these methods aren't enough (much as trade-union consciousness by itself isn't enough).

Thanks for responding.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo