Politics and Policy

 

The politics and policy of work and economic futures

This part of my work critically engages with increasingly influential and persuasive ideas around the futures of work and capitalist society and how these are operationalised and mobilised around in concrete political activity and policymaking, specifically on the social democratic and socialist left in and around the British Labour Party. This theme has four intersecting strands: Postcapitalist politics and the post-work imaginary; Corbynism, the Labour Party and the left; Universal Basic Income and its alternatives; and Institutions, civil society and alternative forms of social reproduction

 
 

 
 
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Postcapitalist politics and the post-work imaginary

I am actively engaged in debates about the futures of work, particularly as a critic of the recent cross-spectrum political and policymaker uptake of ideas around a coming ‘post-work’ society made possible by automation. This work is best represented in articles for Economy & Society and, with Ana Dinerstein, the Journal of Labor and Society. A Guardian article named me ‘perhaps the sharpest outside judge of the post-work movement’. An extended interview for a recent radio documentary summarises some of my thinking on the topic. With Jon Cruddas MP, I am co-editing a special issue of Political Quarterly on ‘The Politics of Postcapitalism’. I am also co-editor of a new online blog powered by Bristol University Press, Futures of Work. As part of my public engagement around this topic, I conducted an ‘oral history of the future’ with workers at Avonmouth Docks for an event in the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science in November 2018.

 

Corbynism, the Labour Party and the left

I am particularly interested in the uptake of ideas around postcapitalism and the post-work society in the Labour Party, labour movement and wider left in the UK. A major part of the context for this has been the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and the loose intellectual coalition of Corbynism constructed around his leadership. A book with Matt Bolton, Corbynism: A Critical Approach (Emerald 2018), attempts to systematically map the components of the Corbyn worldview, building on more specific treatments in single- and co-authored articles in British Politics and Capital & Class as well as a series of media commentaries and op-eds. A particular concern of this research is the role of the nation and the state in the delineation of policy alternatives to the challenges confronting work and workers in a globalised capitalist economy, and the political consequences of certain theorisations of what capitalism is and how it works.

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Universal Basic Income and its alternatives

Within the context of a wider preoccupation with welfare policy a triple crisis of social democracy, social reproduction and the work society, art of my engagement with the new politics of post-work and postcapitalism centres on proposals for a Universal Basic Income as a means of containing the fallout from an age of technological unemployment. Much of my previous and current work on the topic stems from my participation in a Foundation for European Progressive Studies working group on the Basic Income, which has culminated in a paper with Lorena Lombardozzi for Capital & Class. In common with an argument put forward in recent papers for the Journal of Labor & Society and Capital & Class with Ana Dinerstein, this strand of my engagement with the UBI suggests that more autonomous civil society responses to the ‘crisis of social reproduction’ are required that do not stake everything on state provision.

 

Institutions, civil society and alternative forms of social reproduction

Through my participation in the Labour in Transition International Interdisciplinary Network, and collaborations convened at an ESRC-funded 2016 workshop organised with Ana Dinerstein at the University of Bath, Marx in the Key of Hope and a stream I co-convened on Organizing Resilience In, Against and Beyond Capital at LAEMOS 2018, I maintain a broad interest in the empirical study of grassroots experiments in the reconfiguration of how goods and services are produced and consumed- particularly cooperatives for freelancers, precarious workers and the self-employed, but also innovations in the circular and sharing economies. This agenda explores contradictions around the development and institutionalisation of practical alternatives in the organisation of work, social reproduction and economic life. The focus on the challenges of replicating and legislating for these structures poses a critical counterweight to contemporary prospectuses of an imminent ‘postcapitalist’ or ‘post-work’ society achieved through technological development. This developing research agenda straddles of a number of projects, most prominently around the organisation of the self-employed, where cooperatives, mutuals and new means of securing subsistence and social reproduction play a major role. Themes of this work are combined in a recent co-authored working paper for the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Social and Solidarity Economy.

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