The concept of precarity – a term describing the flexible and uncertain working and living conditions in the contemporary world – is often presented in opposition to the idea of stability. On the one pole stands the idea of a permanent job or career: a secure and stable life-long chain of economic pursuits and social relations that promise steady upward mobility across generations (Sennett, 1998: 9). On the other pole remains the hyper-flexible contractual labour and displaced life advanced by new forms of managerial capitalism.
The purpose of the contemporary university is being radically transformed by the encroachment of corporate imperatives into higher education. This has inevitable consequences for managerial interventions, funding structures, and teaching and research audits. It also impacts on the working conditions of academic staff in university institutions in terms of teaching, research, administration and public engagement.
Today, work and consumption are notably blurred. Consumption matters are found to make inroads into the realm of work, while consumption gains traction in the domain of production. This special issue of ephemera gets to the heart of this phenomenon. Covering a range of themes – genetic testing, self-quantification, migration, popular media and modern workplaces – the contributions to this issue call attention to the ethico-politics of productive and consumptive aspects of contemporary life.
If one would like to trace back to the beginnings of social sciences he or she should search for the objects or phenomena which first allowed these disciplines to anchor their initial concepts and guide their empirical research. For such phenomena serve both as objects of inquiry in their own right and as openings to investigations reaching far beyond the initial domain. Such phenomena were (which is quite uncontroversial) the division of labour and religion.
Rethinking the strike, bet on generalization. Here is what we learned from a cycle of struggles in the field of retail logistics in Italy, and specifically warehouse workers at cooperatives managing and organizing the sorting and transport of goods for major brands such as IKEA, the national Coop and for large-scale distribution companies such as TNT Global Express and SDA Express Courier.