Author:Emília Marques (Lisbon University Institute / CRIAnthropology)
Paper short abstract:
Memories of stable work by former female manufacturing workers are taken as starting point to discuss the complex links between work, consumption and subjective agency. It is argued that fluid socio occupational structures may prove harmful rather than nurturing to subjective agency in consumption.
Paper long abstract:
Memories of stable work by former female manufacturing workers in a de industrializing town are taken as a starting point to discuss the complex links between work, consumption and subjective agency.
Having entered manufacturing work in a full employment context - the early 1970s industrializing Lisbon suburbs - and having enjoyed, in their particular factories, a Fordist-like job regulation regime, these women fondly recall work (and wage) as available and controllable tools they would enlist for private life goals. Against this picture they contrast both their own current economic downgrading and the following generation's experience of work as a scarce, elusive resource, the struggle for which often overwhelms private life. While renouncing to goods and services they used to afford, and sometimes resorting to some old skills (just as sewing) as coping devices, they are fully aware that the income stability they once enjoyed has allowed them, besides a certain consumption level, the possibility of making long term private life decisions in such terms that neither their parents nor - ominously - their children could experience.
If they were social theorists, then, those women (among whom I am conducting a postdoctoral research on work, consumption and the complex relations between both) would likely challenge any claims that a liquefaction of labour structures may lead to the flourishing of subjective agency in the realm of consumption. In their experience, solid socio-occupational structures had been associated with practices of subjective freedom and agency in consumption, while more liquid, unstable ones have brought about uncertainty and restrain.
Work and consumption: insurmountable links in uncertain times (EN) (FR)