The Subterranean Stream: Communicative Capitalism and Call Centre Labour

Enda Brophy (2011) “The Subterranean Stream: Communicative Capitalism and Call Centre Labour”, ephemera: theory & politics in organization 10(3/4): 470-483.

This paper introduces an international inquiry into collective organization in call centres. Arguing that it offers an important test for labour recomposition in the twenty-first century, the article begins by situating the global explosion of call centre employment over the last two decades by adopting and extending political theorist Jodi Dean’s concept of ‘communicative capitalism’. Second, it surveys the dominant perspectives on the labour performed by call centre workers and introduces the autonomist concept of immaterial labour, one which encourages us to approach emergent forms of employment from the perspective of the struggles and the collective organization they produce. The paper continues with an overview of the forms of labour resistance emerging from call centres globally and concludes by offering a sketch of three of the research project’s case studies in Italy, Ireland, and Canada.

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