Writers’ Rights provides context for freelancers’ struggles and identifies the points of contention between journalists and big business. Through interviews and a survey of freelancers, Cohen highlights the paradoxes of freelancing, which can be simultaneously precarious and satisfying, risky and rewarding. She documents the transformation of freelancing from a way for journalists to resist salaried labour in pursuit of autonomy into a strategy for media firms to intensify exploitation of freelance writers’ labour power, and presents case studies of freelancers’ efforts to collectively transform their conditions.
This paper argues that Marxist political economy is a useful framework for understanding contemporary conditions of cultural work. Drawing on Karl Marx’s foundational concepts, labour process theory, and a case study of freelance writers, I argue that the debate over autonomy and control in cultural work ignores exploitation in labour-capital relationships, which is a crucial process shaping cultural work. To demonstrate the benefits of this approach, I discuss two methods media firms use to extract surplus value from freelance writers: exploitation of unpaid labour time and exploitation of intellectual property through aggressive copyright regimes. I argue that a Marxist perspective can uncover the dynamics that are transforming cultural industries and workers’ experiences. From this perspective, cultural work is understood as a site of struggle.
Earlier this month, about twenty people gathered on a hot London evening at The HUB Islington for an event called “Freelancers Unite! What rights are we fighting for?” Taking inspiration from recent efforts in Berlin to ignite a freelancers’ movement, this event was part of the space’s “50 Days of Freelancing” series. Speakers gave a big-picture view of the spread of independent work and zeroed in on the flipside of making a living in a flexible labour economy. Among concerns that participants shared were clients who don’t pay, pressure to do work for free (or almost free), and uncertain access to contracts following maternity leave. One of the things that the “Freelancers Unite!” event demonstrated is that coworking spaces are promising places for gathering members of a workforce whose trademark dispersal can make it tricky to reflect—and act—on livelihood issues collectively.
Normative cultural economy discourse on New York City embraces the creative industries as engines of job creation but neglects the quality of employment within them. This article sets out to both illuminate the precarious conditions of nonstandard workers in New York’s vaunted creative sectors and identify emerging collective responses to precarity in this city. Three areas of labour activity are focused upon: fashion industry frictions, art world agitations, and independent worker initiatives. Under each of these headings, the article profiles two organizations that are variously exposing, resisting, and mitigating precarity among flexible labour forces in the arts, the media, cultural industries, and beyond. The discussion of these organizations is informed by interviews with some of their protagonists, by documents produced by the organizations, and/or by media coverage of them. Challenging the assumption that getting by in informal cultural labour markets obliges individual coping strategies, this article reveals scenes from a …