The Unemployed in Movement: Struggles for a Common Territory in the Buenos Aires Urban Periphery Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Mason-Deese, Liz
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
  • In 2001, after years of increasing unemployment and neoliberal austerity measures, a massive uprising shook the streets of Buenos Aires and forced the neoliberal government out of office. The movements that led and emerged from this insurrection were notable for the new form of politics that they practiced: aiming not to take the power of the state but to create counter-power from below. This dissertation analyzes the experiences of one of the key social movements during this period: the unemployed workers' movements. Never a nationally unified movement, autonomous organizations of unemployed workers emerged throughout the country, conducting massive roadblocks to demand unemployment benefits and creating their own forms of “work with dignity.” Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork along with the rich theoretical production of the movements themselves, the dissertation focuses on two such organizations in the urban periphery of Buenos Aires. The dissertation shows how the unemployed workers' organizations expand the definition of labor in order to recognize crucial reproductive labor and other forms of femininized labor that are often marginalized, highlighting the productivity of the poor and the unemployed. This has crucial implications for understanding the contemporary capitalist economy, especially in its neo-extractivist form currently dominant in Latin America and the continued prevalence of precarious and informal labor. In order to organize around this expanded notion of labor, the unemployed workers' movements engage in “territorial organizing,” in which each organizations works in a specific neighborhood or territory, drawing its membership primarily from that geographic space, addressing the most pressing needs of its residents, and establishing a physical presence there. The unemployed workers' organizations enacted alternative economic practices in their territories, such as worker-controlled cooperatives and other enterprises, as well as autonomous forms of social reproduction, such as schools and health clinics. These alternative practices allowed the poor and unemployed to survive the worst of Argentina's economic crisis, while laying the foundations for an alternative society. Ultimately, this dissertation shows how the unemployed workers' movements center their practices around collectively producing and controlling the common and creating new forms of life.
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  • In Copyright
  • Escobar, Arturo
  • Reyes, Alvaro
  • Cravey, Altha
  • Gokariksel, Banu
  • Hardt, Michael
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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