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The Pandemic as the Perfect Storm of Capitalist Irrationality An Interview with Nancy Fraser

by Nancy Fraser, Armin Thurnher

GD 11.3

In May 2021, Nancy Fraser, the renowned philosopher, critical theorist, and Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science at the New School for Social Research, met Armin Thurnher, the founder and publisher of the important Austrian weekly Falter for a public interview. Nancy Fraser, as the first Karl Polanyi Visiting Professor hosted by the City of Vienna, the Central European University, the University of Vienna, the Vienna University of Economics and Business, the Vienna Chamber of Labor, and the International Karl Polanyi Society and Armin Thurnher, as a political journalist, talked about pressing issues of our times. This interview granted to Global Dialogue presents Nancy Fraser’s biographical experiences...

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Latest Issue. GD 11.3, December 2021

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Care Home Deaths amidst the Pandemic

GD 11.3

Social responses to the COVID-19 pandemic extend from the micro level of interpersonal interactions in domestic and virtual settings, to the macro level in which care practices and relations, writ large, affect entire national populations and their transnational exchanges. Actions at each of these levels need to be understood as forms of care. Developing theoretical understandings that acknowledge the importance of care has become increasingly important for social theory and sociological research in recent years. Evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21 shows a distressing response by national governments and international institutions. While the public health response in a few countries demonstrated that it was possible to limit the impact of the pandemic, most countries struggled. Under...

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Towards a Contemporary Theorization of Work

GD 11.3

In sociological terms, work may be understood as a purposeful human activity using physical strength and psycho-physical skills. The fact that other criteria (effort, utility, tools, wages, etc.) are often additionally invoked as primary aspects indicates that the category as such is far from unequivocally defined. Even though work is performed by individuals, it is at least indirectly always integrated into and shaped by constantly changing social contexts that are based on a division of labor (cooperation, organizations, etc.). What is work? Like almost no other concept, the notion of work has been subject to historical change both scientifically and particularly regarding social practice. More recently, there have been fierce controversies over the question...

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COVID-19 and India’s Migrant Workers

GD 11.3

The Indian government’s non-preparedness to handle a pandemic or any health crisis became clear during the COVID-19 pandemic when it abruptly announced Lockdown 1.0 on the night of March 24, 2020. Citizens were left in utter chaos with only a four-hour window at their disposal before the onset of the nationwide curfew. The state’s apathy towards migrants and the urban poor became evident in the manner the lockdown was imposed, which failed to factor in the immediate catastrophic impact on daily-wagers. With barely any savings in hand and the impinging danger of starvation in the face of uncertainty, a vast majority of them were forced to return to their native places. According to the World Health Organization, in the first week of Lockdown 1.0, close to 50,000 migrants...

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Informal and Precarious Work in a Global Context

GD 11.3

Informal work is compensated work that is itself legal but falls beyond the reach or grasp of standard employment laws. “Beyond the reach” means work that simply is not covered by those laws. Self-employed workers like street vendors, but also many employed by others - domestic workers, agricultural workers, day laborers - are informal in this sense in much of the world. “Beyond the grasp” means that in theory the law applies, but in practice it is not implemented. This includes many workers in smaller enterprises - think of small retail stores or restaurants - but also some in very large enterprises. Informal employment is most emphatically not limited to people employed by informal, off-the-books businesses. In Mexico, for instance, most informal workers...

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Contested Care in Austria, Germany, Switzerland

GD 11.3

Senior home care: new care markets and precarious migrant work Like many other countries, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland are increasingly confronted with what are being called “care gaps.” While their populations grow older, informal care capacities within families diminish, as the welfare state is reconfigured according to the now dominant adult worker model. At the same time, the state increasingly withdraws from the provision of social services – especially in long-term senior care. This has led to the emergence of a for-profit market that mediates transnational home care arrangements: care is outsourced to (mostly female) circular migrants from the new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe. These workers care for and live with seniors...

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The Future of Work in the Digital Age

GD 11.3

It is widely claimed that the rise of digital labor platforms is reshaping the future of work. While some praise the “platform economy” - both online web-based platform work (“crowd work”) performed remotely and location-based platform work carried out in a specified area - for its promise of freedom and flexibility, research shows that the platform economy is deepening the casualization of labor and shifting risks such as occupational health and safety onto workers. Much of the discussion assumes digital platforms are creating “new” types of work. However, most of these jobs have been around for a long time: metered taxis, restaurant food delivery services, and domestic cleaners. What, then, is “new” about emerging forms of gig work?...

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Decoding Algorithmic Control

GD 11.3

The Justice League is a group of superheroes, including but not limited to Batman and Wonder Woman, attempting to save the artificial fictional world from the super villain Darkseid. The Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) founded in 2016, also aspires for a more just and equitable world, particularly in how artificial intelligence (AI) is used. The AJL focuses on promoting four key principles in fighting algorithmic control, namely, affirmative consent, meaningful transparency, continuous oversight and accountability, and actionable critique. Although labeled “artificial intelligence” it is anything but artificial; as Kate Crawford writes in The Atlas of AI, “AI is both embodied and material.” It is this materiality...

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Online Labor Platforms: Power Sans Accountability?

GD 11.3

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the widespread normalization of remote working for knowledge workers, with accompanying advancements in digital tools to facilitate this transition, including communications, video conferencing, algorithmic management and task allocation, and surveillance of workers. As the pandemic has shone a spotlight on and exacerbated many pre-existing inequalities in labor markets, a marked division has become apparent between those professions easily able to transition to remote working, and lower-wage service jobs which cannot be done remotely, and in which workers have faced the dual risks of exposure to the virus, and loss of income whilst quarantining or isolating. While these inequitable...

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Holding as Labor and Epistemology

GD 11.3

The Eurocentric fantasy of “mastering nature” has always been a problematic ontology. And the originary link between matter and mater (Latin) is no coincidence. Early ecological feminists saw the civilizational drive to mastery as a sublimation of mother killing, allowing men to birth themselves culturally, without dependency on mysterious natural flows. Today, this same psychological dissociation that externalizes nature enables neoliberal powers, warfare, and modern science. Can the Oedipal deal that is academia come to terms with this? Re-membering In any event, as the old culture of “othering” sets up a world of objects and abstractions, its mirror image remains sensuous and might be called “holding.” Holding...

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