Accepted Paper:

Introduction to Section 1: wageless livelihoods: history, theory and critique  

Author:

Patrícia Alves de Matos (CRIA-ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to expand the under-theorized phenomenon of unemployment in contemporary societies through three main axis of analysis: history, theory and critique. The aim is to expand our conception of life under austerity capitalism from the analytical standpoint of wageless livelihoods.

Paper long abstract:

This introductory paper seeks to expand the under-theorized phenomenon of unemployment through three main axis of analysis: history, theory and critique. I begin by referring to the Great Depression of the 1930s, the public policy normalization of unemployment seen through the post-World War II welfare states emergence; followed by the 1970s Great Recession, the introduction of new management techniques and the changing geo-politics of production. My aim is to trace the shifting state apparatus for governing and categorizing the unemployed population within broader capitalist imperatives. After, I focus on a selection of theoretical tools and debates enabling a greater understanding and explanation of unemployment. These include Marx's contributions vis-à-vis the dialectics of capital accumulation and the accumulation of labour (e.g. 'reserve army of labour'; relative surplus populations; lumpenproletariat; virtual paupers, etc); the 1970s politics of informal labour in the capitalist periphery, and the 'end of work' debate at the core; critical feminist theory and reproductive labour; and, debates centered on the precariat, surplus populations, wageless life and the politics of distribution and 'predatory formations of expulsion'.

I conclude by arguing for the relevance of history, theory and critique in deconstructing normalized and ahistorical understandings of employment vis a vis unemployment, while also capturing the articulations among differentially and unevenly geo-political situated labour forces. This is illustrated through an analysis of wageless livelihoods in austerity capitalism.

Panel P080
New trends in the anthropology of unemployment after the economic crisis of 2008-9 [Anthropology of Economy Network]