Emerging Labour Politics in Creative Industries

Greig de Peuter and Nicole S. Cohen (2015) “Emerging Labour Politics in Creative Industries.” In Kate Oakley and Justin O’Connor eds., The Routledge Companion to the Cultural Industries (New York: Routledge), pp. 305-318.

Research on cultural labour tends to conceptualize cultural workers as either model subjects of neoliberalism or as victims of precarity. Recognizing cultural workers’ roles as agents of change calls for deeper engagement with efforts to organize, agitate, and resist precarity. A key concept in studies of cultural labour is autonomy. We seek to widen and politicize the concept of autonomy to include cultural workers’ efforts to collectively exert control over the terms under which their labour power is engaged, to question the dominant organization of cultural production, to seek ways to sustain independent work by de-linking social security from standard employment, and to produce alternative systems of meaning about work. We propose three conceptual lenses for approaching research on cultural labour from worker resistance: mutual aid, or developing bottom-up infrastructures to support independent work; policy from below, or creating worker-centred policies to mitigate the precarity of non-standard work; and counter-interpellation, or building alternate vocabularies to define cultural labour that resist dominant ideological codes attached to visions of ‘creatives’ and ‘free agents’. Our proposed conceptual entry points demonstrate that beginning from cultural workers’ resistant practices opens new areas for inquiry and action in the field of cultural and communicative labour.

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