In this blog Dr Adam Fishwick (De Montfort University) and Dr Heather Connolly (University of Leicester) discuss their new edited book, which assesses the impact and continuing development of working-class resistance in and against ‘hard times’.
Our edited collection arose from two workshops hosted by the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA) at De Montfort University. The contributors were brought together through their commitment to the working-class struggles that their chapters seek to represent either as an activist or engaged observer. The project developed through an organic engagement across contributors’ shared interest in emerging sites and practices of resistance and from how these are understood via distinct disciplinary lenses. Consequently, the volume speaks from across a range of sites and spaces of resistance, explicitly foregrounding the different levels at which we observe them, with insights from sociology, politics, international relations, labour relations, and media studies on migrant labour, workplace occupation, social movements, and digitalised resistance. Contributions cover contemporary and historical social movements in the UK, Spain, Japan and Ireland, grassroots labour organisation in France, Italy and Argentina, and some of the innovative forms of resistance emerging in the digital economy.
The collection that has emerged from this collaboration marks an attempt to shed new light on the possibilities of working-class resistance in the current moment, offering an alternative view but still speaking to recent contributions from social movement studies or from labour relations. It does this through a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to several core questions that inform the contributions to this volume: 1) how are different working classes surviving in the context of increasing hardship and does this produce resistance? 2) In what ways are they disrupting the institutions and structures that reproduce the political economic order? 3) To what extent can we observe resistance(s) that are creating something new within and against this? A broader question underpinning these core question is how far can we engage with and learn from across the range of sites and spaces identified in this volume to facilitate a broader challenge across the globe? The collection seeks to develop an ongoing dialogue around these questions by assessing the impact and continuing development of working-class resistance in and against what we term ‘hard times’.
To do this, the volume is less an assessment of the vibrant range of ‘anti-austerity’ social movements that have emerged, although several chapters do make significant contributions to these debates. There have been detailed and influential accounts of these movements elsewhere. The volume is, instead, about understanding the sites, spaces and practices of working-class resistance that have begun to emerge over the last decade. In doing this, our contributors offer a critical understanding of the concept of working-class resistance that advances beyond a static notion of class, situating this, as elaborated below, in contexts of ‘hard times’ that combine austerity with a broad-based transformation of political economy, work, everyday life, and subjectivity that is at once responsive to and generative of new protests and new modalities of resistance.
The contributions to the volume are unashamedly radical in their content, engaging unapologetically in solidarity with their objects of analysis. The authors aim to place the agency of the marginalised and actions of the oppressed in a range of sites and space at the fore of understanding the (re)construction of the world around us. Each focuses on the coalescence of local, micro, oft-concealed resistance(s), on vibrant, explosive moments of social protest, and on the mutually constitutive relationship between the two. What ties these contributions together is an attempt to understand concretely how the actors, sites, and struggles of resistance we have identified are central to constructing not only new ways of organising and of mobilising, but also of surviving and creating new ways of living in the face of these hard times.
It is a volume rooted in a radical critique of an era characterised by what Ana Dinerstein describes as the deepening ‘hopelessness’ of neoliberalism. In part, we follow her critique as we set out to explore the way various actors are already ‘organising hope’ today, linking different Marxist-inspired theoretical perspectives that each foreground the importance of a dynamic working-class agency This is not to fetishise the significance of what remain sporadic acts of protest, still-marginal practices of resistance, and the uneven growth of collective action. In fact, as noted in several of the contributions, the direct opposition to and suppression of these new practices of resistance is powerful and leads, more often than not, to the defeat, dissipation, or placation of resistance. But, to borrow from social movement and mobilisation theory, what our volume shows is that where individuals feel aggrieved and grievance is felt as an injustice, there is always the possibility for individual and collective resistance to develop. One of the main aims of this volume is to foreground this ever-present potential, countering the marginalisation of working-class agency in everyday life and academic literature, by bringing to the fore those that are confronting the seemingly inexorable rise of hard times.
Adam Fishwick and Heather Connolly (2018) Austerity and Working-Class Resistance: Survival, Disruption and Creation in Hard Times, London: Rowman and Littlefield. 232p.
We will launch the book at the IWGB offices in London on Wednesday 17th October from 18.00-20.00 in support of their #deliverjustice campaign for riders with Deliveroo (details here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/deliverjustice/). There will be food and drink and a member of the IWGB discussing/responding to the book. We are asking those who are able to make a small donation to the campaign on the day.
If you are interested and in London then please come along. Contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further details and to register.