Event Title

On the New Dignity of Labour

Start Date

17-10-2009 4:00 PM

End Date

17-10-2009 5:30 PM

Description

This paper was presented at Paper Session 3 – Digital Labour in Representation.

In the first half of this paper I situate the contemporary discourse of ‘creative’ labour, of which digital labour is regarded as the epitomising symbol, within the historical discourse on the dignity of labour. One of the conditions of possibility of this discourse is to be located in the prevailing conception of social class. Although class position cannot be defined exclusively by occupation, under conditions of precarity or ‘liquid modernity’, occupation has increasingly assumed the role of a key determinant of social and economic and inequality. In the second half of the paper, I provide a brief overview of the history of work as a dignified and dignifying activity. This historical contextualisation is followed by the argument that judgments about the skill status of a particular occupation are at base judgments about the moral qualities of different categories of workers and ultimately the individuals placed in such categories. I identify three figurations of work in the Western economies – the ergometric, fractal and modular – and locate digital labour within this moral cascade of job types. The article concludes with suggestions about the utopian and dystopian resonances of digital labour in relation to the concept of collective labour and the neo- liberal ideology of self-appreciating labour.

 
Oct 17th, 4:00 PM Oct 17th, 5:30 PM

On the New Dignity of Labour

This paper was presented at Paper Session 3 – Digital Labour in Representation.

In the first half of this paper I situate the contemporary discourse of ‘creative’ labour, of which digital labour is regarded as the epitomising symbol, within the historical discourse on the dignity of labour. One of the conditions of possibility of this discourse is to be located in the prevailing conception of social class. Although class position cannot be defined exclusively by occupation, under conditions of precarity or ‘liquid modernity’, occupation has increasingly assumed the role of a key determinant of social and economic and inequality. In the second half of the paper, I provide a brief overview of the history of work as a dignified and dignifying activity. This historical contextualisation is followed by the argument that judgments about the skill status of a particular occupation are at base judgments about the moral qualities of different categories of workers and ultimately the individuals placed in such categories. I identify three figurations of work in the Western economies – the ergometric, fractal and modular – and locate digital labour within this moral cascade of job types. The article concludes with suggestions about the utopian and dystopian resonances of digital labour in relation to the concept of collective labour and the neo- liberal ideology of self-appreciating labour.