Interrupted futures: the contested value of co-operative labour
Penny Harvey (University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
Working with an ethnographic case from Southern Peru, the paper explores diverse contemporary interpretations of the value of co-operative labour paying particular attention to how specific forms of precarity emerge in the movements between agricultural, contract and migrant labour.
Paper long abstract:
Sociological interest in precarious labour has focused on the existential insecurity associated with the discontinuous work relations of contemporary modes of production and the difficulties of forming effective modes of social and political solidarity. This paper, by contrast, explores the continuities of precarious living in the Southern Peruvian Andes over the past century. Following Stewart's (2012) affirmation of precarity as 'a form that takes place through attachments, tempos, materialities and states of being' the paper traces how specific forms of precarity emerge in the movements between agricultural, contract and migrant labour. In particular the paper focuses on how the affective force of social obligations and responsibilities to wider collectives (such as the family, the peasant community, or the co-operative) interrupt the trajectories of entrepreneurial subjects in search of more stable personal and collective futures. The paper draws on the case of a highly successful agricultural co-operative set up following Peru's Agrarian Reform of 1969. Today the co-operative is much diminished and marked by inter-generational and community conflict, its lands largely dispersed, its leaders widely accused of corruption and self interest. Legal changes have systematically undermined the status of these co-operative ventures rending them irregular in relation to more formally demarcated peasant communities and political districts. The paper explores diverse contemporary interpretations of the value of co-operative labour, and understandings of the responsibilities of co-operative membership, paying particular attention to the affective dynamics of personal commitment to other people through engagement in collective ventures.
The uncertain bodily relations of contemporary economic practice