The Meanings of Work

Essay on the Affirmation and Negation of Work

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The Meanings of Work aims to explore some dimensions of the changes taking place in the labour-world, as well as looking at the consequences, theoretical and empirical, entailed by these transformations, such as the relevance and pertinence of the category of labour in the contemporary world. Billions of men and women depend exclusively on their labour to survive and encounter increasingly unstable, precarious or casual workers and the unemployed. As the contingent of workers has grown, there have been a vast reduction in jobs, rights have been corroded and the gains of the past have been eroded. The Meanings of Work starts with a wider conception of work and seeks to understand this new condition of labour today.

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Biographical Note

Ricardo Antunes is Professor of Sociology at University of Campinas (UNICAMP/Brazil). He was Visiting Research Fellow at Sussex University and his books and articles has been published in France, Italy, England, Swiss, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, among others countries.    

Table of contents

Foreword by István Mészáros
Preface to the English edition
Preface to the second edition
Preface to the first edition
Introduction

1. Capital’s Social-Metabolic Order and its System of Mediations
The system of first-order mediations
The emergence of the system of second-order mediations

2. Dimensions of the Structural Crisis of Capital
The crisis of Fordism and Taylorism as the phenomenal expression of the structural crisis

3. The Responses of Capital to its Structural Crisis: Productive Restructuring and its Repercussions in the Labour-Process
The limits of Taylorism/Fordism and of the social-democratic compromise
The emergence of mass worker-revolts and the crisis of the welfare-state

4. Toyotism and the New Forms of Capital-Accumulation
The fallacy of ‘total quality’ under the diminishing utility-rate of the use-value of commodities
The ‘lyophilisation’ of organisation and labour in the Toyotist factory: new forms of labour-intensification

5. From Thatcher’s Neoliberalism to Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’: the Recent British Experience
Neoliberalism, the world of work and the crisis of unionism in England
Elements of productive restructuring in Britain: ideas and practice
British strikes in the 1990s: forms of confrontation with neoliberalism and the casualisation of work
New Labour and Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’

6. The Class-that-Lives-from-Labour: the Working Class Today
Towards a broader notion of the working class
Dimensions of the diversity, heterogeneity and complexity of the working class
The sexual division of labour: transversalities between the dimensions of class and gender
Wage-earners in the service-sector, the ‘third sector’ and new forms of domestic labour
Transnationalisation of capital and the world of work

7. The World of Labour and Value-Theory: Forms of Material and Immaterial Labour
The growing interaction between labour and scientific knowledge: a critique of the thesis of ‘science as primary productive force’
The interaction between material and immaterial labour
Contemporary forms of estrangement

8. Excursus on the Centrality of Labour: the Debate between Lukács and Habermas
1. The centrality of labour in Lukács’s Ontology of Social Being
Labour and teleology
Labour as the model of social practice
Labour and freedom

2. Habermas’s critique of the ‘paradigm of labour’
The paradigm of communicative action and the sphere of intersubjectivity
The uncoupling of system and lifeworld
The colonisation of the lifeworld and Habermas’s critique of the theory of value

3. A critical sketch of Habermas’s critique
Authentic and inauthentic subjectivity

9. Elements towards an Ontology of Everyday Life

10. Working Time and Free Time: towards a Meaningful Life Inside and Outside of Work

11. Foundations of a New Social-Metabolic Order

Appendices

Appendices to the second edition
1. Ten Theses and a Hypothesis on the Present (and Future) of Work
2. Labour and Value: Critical Notes

Appendices to the first edition
1. The Crisis of the Labour-Movement and the Centrality of Labour Today
2. The New Proletarians at the Turn of the Century
3. The Metamorphoses and Centrality of Labour Today
4. Social Struggles and Socialist Societal Design in Contemporary Brazil

References
Index

Readership

It will be of interest to sociologists, economists, social workers, psychologists and for all those interested in recent changes in the global configuration of work.

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