Sub-theme 42: Organizing the ‘Un-organizable’: New Forms of Mobilization and Solidarity against Precarization
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University of Milan, Italy
Hasselt University, Belgium, & Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Ozan Nadir Alakavuklar
Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Call for Papers
The accelerated precarization of the labour force is today putting the question of the organization of precarious workers
at the very core of workers’ political struggle in late capitalism. Processes of firm fragmentation and labour market flexibilization
are structurally redefining capital–labour relations to the advantage of capital. On the one hand, the diffusion of non-standard
employment through fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work and solo self-employment – increasingly mediated by digital
platforms – is rapidly multiplying the risk of precariousness for an ever‐growing group of workers (Kallinikos, 2003; Armano
& Murgia, 2013; Kalleberg & Vallas, 2017). On the other hand, these forms of non-standard employment are promoting
an unequal integration into the labour market that not only exacerbates traditional gender, class, age and ethnicity divisions
(Banks & Milestone, 2011; van Doorn, 2017; Zanoni, 2019), but also further undermines labour’s rights and working conditions
as a whole (De Stefano, 2016; Huws, 2016), worsening the crisis of social reproduction in neoliberal capitalism (Leonard &
Fraser, 2016; Zanoni, 2019).
The erosion of working conditions has spurred a broad debate on novel ways to
conceive and organize struggles, including questions on the constitution of a political subject through the recognition of
mutual vulnerability (Butler, 1997) and the strategies and modalities of mobilization. Prominent in these debates is the question
on how to engage the precarious in political struggle, a type of workers who has long been considered ‘un-organizable’ due
to their hyper-individualized entrepreneurial subjectivity resulting from neoliberal capitalist relations (Boltanski &
Chiapello, 2007; McNay, 2009; Fleming, 2017; Moisander et al., 2018).
Albeit at different pace and in different
national modalities, trade unions are increasingly recognising the need to address the organization and collective representation
of the growing group of workers in non-standard employment relations, to better represent the interests of these often heterogeneous
and particularly vulnerable groups of workers (Pernicka, 2005; Gumbrell-McCormick, 2011; Simms & Dean, 2014; Doellgast
et al., 2018). An important aspect of trade union renewal concerns building alliances with societal actors such as communities
and groups to create counter-hegemonic blocs that revitalise workers’ power (Hyman & Gumbrell-McCormick, 2017; Parker
& Alakavuklar, 2018). In this process, unions are required to leave the comfort zone of classical industrial relations,
to recognize and leverage their common interests with multiple constituencies, even including some segments of capital itself
(Zanoni, 2019). At the same time, less institutionalised forms of collective mobilisation are building new forms of resistance
against precarization within social movements (Neilson & Rossiter, 2005; Gherardi & Murgia, 2015; Foti, 2017), as
well as within alternative organizations, such as quasi-unions (Heckscher & Carré, 2006) and cooperatives (Flecha &
Ngai, 2014; Graceffa & de Heusch, 2017; Scholz & Schneider, 2016), which are enacting novel processes fostering collective
identity and political engagement.
Within the debate on alternative economies, some scholars have also argued
that answers to capitalism should be sought in existing community economies that already organize work and exchange relations
in non-capitalist ways, and would transform our capital-o-centric assumptions and practices which have been reinforcing individualized
relations (Gibson-Graham et al., 2013; Miller, 2015). Hence, such community economies should be understood as bases of resistance
that enact alternatives, through which the precarious not only get out of the imposed capitalist relations to work and subsist,
but also become part of a collective solidarity network through their labour and time (Lorey, 2015).
we are witnessing broader calls for a ‘social’ unionism supposed to bring various movements together and create a new political
subjectivity – i.e. the multitude – expected to ‘suspend’ capitalist relations in the form of ‘social’ strike (Hardt &
Negri, 2017). At the same time, others are calling for universal basic income for everyone as a way to create a new political
economic ecology for emancipatory organizations to emerge (Srnicek & Williams, 2015), an alternative future that is however
not void of risks (Pitts & Dinerstein, 2017). It is yet unknown how, and along with whom, the precarious, as a growing
‘new class’ (Standing, 2011), will take part in these wider struggles to organize new forms of work, resist precarization
and transform both society and economy.
Taking stock of this rich theoretical and political debate, this
sub-theme aims to bringing together different strands of research to advance our understanding of which kind of collective
project can be developed with heterogeneous, precarious, flexible and atomized subjects, with limited access to social protection
rights and to collective representation, but with the aim to resist the norms of a neoliberal and individualized society (Zanoni
et al., 2017).
We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions that examine any of the following, or related,
What are today effective ways of organizing precarious workers? Under which conditions are they inclusive
How are precarious workers themselves building collective political projects? What role does
the recognition of mutual vulnerability play in this process?
What forms of solidarity can be built to resist
precariousness and fragmentation?
How are alliances between trade unions and emerging organizations challenging
existing institutions? To which extent are they successful in combating precarization?
How can key actors challenge
current practices of exploitation, discrimination and appropriation through precarization? Through which types of alliances
are they most likely to succeed?
Are there successful cases of organizing precarious workers and other socially
and economically disadvantaged communities together? What can we learn from these cases?
How should we theorize
the role of ‘diversity’ in precarization processes?
What obstacles does social diversity pose in the mobilization
of the precarious? What possibilities does it open up?
At a conceptual level, which vocabularies can most productively
be used to theorize the organization of the ‘un-organized’? With which consequences for the political struggle against precarization?
role can researchers play in fostering projects to counter precarization?
To what extent and how can community
economies and practices of commoning generate an alternative to precariousness?
Under which conditions can
‘the multitude’ become a political subject that effectively counters precarization?
Under which conditions
would universal basic income foster an ecology of emancipatory organizations? What are the social, economic and political
risks of decoupling income from work?
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- Doellgast, V., Lillie, N., &
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Annalisa Murgia is an Associate Professor at the Department of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Milan, Italy, and Visiting
Senior Research Fellow at CERIC – Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change, University of Leeds, United Kingdom.
Her research focuses on how precariousness is shaping contemporary subjectivity and on the forms of resistance raised by precarious
workers. Her research has been published in several international journals, such as ‘Culture and Organization’, ‘Research
in the Sociology of Organizations’, ‘Gender, Work and Organization’, ‘Organization’, and ‘Work Organization, Labour & Globalisation’.
Annalisa is member of the editorial board of ‘Organization’ and of the associate board of ‘Work, Employment and Society’.
She is the PI of the ERC project “SHARE – Seizing the Hybrid Areas of Work by Re-presenting self-Employment”.
Patrizia Zanoni is a Full Professor and head of “SEIN – Identity, Diversity & Inequality Research” at the Faculty of Business Economics of
Hasselt University, Belgium, and holder of the Chair in Organization Studies at the School of Governance of Utrecht University,
The Netherlands. Drawing on critical theories such as discourse analysis and Marxist theory, her research investigates the
dynamics of power in changing organizational forms and processes of capital valorization, with special attention to the key
role played by social identities such as gender, ethnicity, disability and diversity more broadly. Patrizia’s work has appeared
in various international organization studies and educational journals. She is an Associate Editor of ‘Organization’ and member
of the editorial boards of the ‘British Journal of Management’, ‘Research in the Sociology of Work’, and ‘Organization Theory’.
Ozan Nadir Alakavuklar is an Associate Professor at the School of Governance of Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Through his research, Ozan intends
to access, support and work with activist communities addressing the current burning issues of our contemporary society, such
as inequality, food surplus/poverty and unsustainable organisational practices. As a part of this research agenda, he initiated
the “Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change Conference” in New Zealand in 2014, which was held four years in a row
and acted as a bridge between academics and activists. Ozan’s research, which is usually a product of collegial and collective
scholarship, was published in ‘Academy of Management Learning and Education’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, ‘Gender, Work
and Organization’, ‘Culture and Organization’, and ‘Relations industrielles/Industrial Relations’. He is a member of the editorial
collective of ‘ephemera’ and book reviews editor for ‘Labour & Industry’.
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