Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina

Contesting Neo-Liberalism by Occupying Companies, Creating Cooperatives, and Recuperating Autogestión


In Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina, Marcelo Vieta homes in on the emergence and consolidation of Argentina’s empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores (ERTs, worker-recuperated enterprises), a workers’ occupy movement that surged at the turn-of-the-millennium in the thick of the country’s neo-liberal crisis. Since then, around 400 companies have been taken over and converted to cooperatives by almost 16,000 workers. Grounded in class-struggle Marxism and a critical sociology of work, the book situates the ERT movement in Argentina’s long tradition of working-class activism and the broader history of workers’ responses to capitalist crisis. Beginning with the voices of the movement’s protagonists, Vieta ultimately develops a compelling social theory of autogestión – a politically prefigurative and ethically infused notion of workers’ self-management that unleashes radical social change for work organisations, surrounding communities, and beyond.

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Marcelo Vieta, Ph.D. (2012), York University, is Assistant Professor of Workplace and Organisational Learning and the Social Economy at the University of Toronto. He has published widely on critical theory, workers’ control and self-management, and on the social economy and social movements in Italy, Canada, Argentina, and Latin American.
“This tome is certainly a valuable contribution to any scholar of workplace democracy and organizational democracy; yet also for practitioners or students of the international cooperative movement, working class history buffs and those searching for theoretical and practical examples of a post-capitalist imaginary that seeks to move beyond a system of wage labor and to a notion of social solidarity. Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina is a welcome addition to the – surprisingly sparse – empirical discourse on self-management and economic democracy. This is the most detailed analysis of the recent experiences in Argentina that this reviewer has encountered (there is a larger literature in Spanish).”
– Jerome Warren, in: Marx and Philosophy Review of Books [Full review]

"Workers’ self-management in Argentina provides a powerful contribution to literature surrounding labour movements, democracy in the context of industrial relations, and resistance to neoliberalism in the organisational environment. I would recommend the book to scholars in any of these relative disciplines. Furthermore, Vieta provides a key example of the way that ethnography and qualitative study particular in the field of industrial relations can bring the experiences of workers to the forefront of knowledge production in a way beneficial to wider elements of the discipline."
– Catherine Spellman, in: British Journal of Industrial Relations [Full review]

"Marcelo Vieta’s recent Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina is the first comprehensive English-language review of “the largest movement in the world of worker-led conversions of capitalist businesses into cooperatives” (p. xv). [...] The book is a welcome contribution to the study of the phenomenon of workplace democracy that should interest a wide range of readers. In fact, it is actually quite unfair to call this book Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina, as its scope is far broader than reviewing this concept in the context of Argentina. In fact, Marcelo Vieta has written two books with this entry: firstly, an analysis of Marxist and other socialist theories on worker-self management, and secondly, an application of this theoretical lens to the Argentine case, with a social history of Argentina thrown in for good measure. There is ultimately something for everyone in this book."
– Jerome Warren, in: British Journal of Industrial Relations [Full review]
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
Glossary of Spanish and Other Foreign Terms and Phrases


The Emergence of Argentina’s Empresas Recuperadas por sus Trabajadores: From Workers’ Lived Experiences of Crisis to Autogestión

1. ‘Destiny in Our Own Hands’: Three Stories of Workplace Recuperations
Cooperativa de Trabajo Chilavert Artes Gráficas
Cooperativa de Trabajo ‘Unión Solidaria de Trabajadores’
Cooperativa de Trabajo de la Salud Junín
Mobilising Direct Action Strategies and Workplace Solidarity

2. Empresas Recuparadas pos sus Trabajadores: Why, Where, What, and How
Section 1: The Emergence of Argentina’s Empresas Recuperadas (with Andrés Ruggeri)
Section 2: ERT Types and Experiences of Workplace Conversions Around the World
The Emergence and Characteristics of Empresas Recuperadas: A Summation

3. The Political Economy of Argentina’s Working Class: Historical Underpinnings of the Empresas Recuperadas
Section 1: The Rise and Consolidation of Argentina’s Working Class (1900–89)
Section 2: Argentina’s Neo-liberal Turn and the After-effects of Socio-Economic Crisis (1990–2016)
Section 3: Working-Class Recomposition and New Forms of Self-Managed Workers’ Organisations (2001–17)
ERTs and the Political Economy of the Working Class in Argentina: A Summation

Theorising and Historicising Autogestión

Chapter 4 The Stream of Self-Determination: Freedom, Cooperation, and the Recuperations of Living Labour
Section 1: The Stream of Self-Determination and Modern Socialist Thought
Section 2: Critical Theories of Labour and Capitalist Technology
Section 3: ERTs’ Six Recuperative Moments
Cooperative Self-Determination, Recuperation, and Argentina’s ERTs: Looking Forward

5. A Genealogy of Autogestión
Section 1: Autogestión and the Self-Determination of Productive Life
Section 2: Cooperatives, the Social and Solidarity Economy, and Autogestión
Autogestión and the Continuing Stream of Self-Determination

PART 3 The Consolidation of Argentina’s Empresas Recuperadas: Common Experiences, Challenges, and Social Transformations

Chapter 6. ‘Occupy, Resist, Produce’: Commonalities in the Lived Experiences of Recuperating Workplaces in Argentina (with Andrés Ruggeri)
Section 1: From Workplace Conflicts to Autogestión
Section 2: The Strategies and Tactics of ‘Occupy, Resist, Produce’
Re-appropriating Relevant Laws, Deploying Cooperative Values

7. The Challenges of Autogestión and ERT Workers’ Responses
Section 1: Production Challenges
Section 2: An Ambivalent Relationship with the State
Section 3: Local and Transnational Solidarity Networks of Autogestión
Organising Between ERTs and the Community to Collectively Overcome Challenges

8. Recuperating the Labour Process, Transforming Subjectivities: From Empleados to Compañeros and Trabajadores Autogestionados
Section 1: Cooperatively Working and Democratising the Shop
Section 2: Recuperating Cooperative Skills and Values, Informal Shop Floor Learning, and Transformed Subjectivities
Section 3: Recuperating Social Production for Social Wealth
Challenging ERTs’ ‘Dual Reality’

PART 4 Recuperating Autogestión

9. Recuperating Autogestión, Prefiguring Alternatives: Some Possible Conclusions
On Workers’ Recuperations of Autogestión
The Conjunctural Realities of Argentina’s ERTs
Autogestión and Argentina’s ERTs
Revisiting ERTs’ ‘Dual Reality’
Revisiting ERTs’ Radical Social Innovations and Recuperative Moments
Revisiting the Definition of Argentina’s Empresas Recuperadas por sus Trabajadores
Closing Thoughts, Continued Openings

Appendix: Formal Interviews Conducted, Meetings Attended, and Cooperatives Visited

Academic libraries, specialists, post-graduate and undergraduate students, unions, and labour and social movement activists interested in workers’ control and self-management, the social economy, cooperatives, the sociology of work, and Argentine political economy and labour history.
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