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Socialist Register 2021: Ursula Huws on Reaping the Whirlwind

Sun, January 31, 2021 @ 1:30 PM - 4:00 PM

$7.00 – $11.00

First session of Socialist Register 2021: Beyond Digital Capitalism: New Ways of Living

An introduction to this year’s book with Greg Albo & Stephen Maher (in memory of Leo Panitch)

“In addressing how far digital technology has become integral to the capitalist market dystopia of the first decades the 21st century, we were deliberately seeking to counter so much facile futurist ‘cyber-utopian’ thinking that has proliferated through these decades. The proof of capitalism’s continued dynamism, even in the face of severe global economic crisis, lay in the most successful and most celebrated high-tech corporations of the new information sector which really were restructuring and refashioning not only our ways of communicating but of working and consuming, indeed ways of living. Yet precisely because this was taking place within the logics of capitalist accumulation and exploitation, and through the reproduction of capitalist social relations, this produced new contradictions and irrationalities. Perhaps none of these was greater than those revealed by the contrast between the investment, planning, and preparation that went into the interminable competitive race for ‘more speed’ by way of reducing latency in digital communications by so many milliseconds, on the one hand, and on the other the lack of investment, planning, and preparation that underlay the scandalous slowness of the responses to the spreading Covid-19 pandemic around the world.” —From the Preface by Leo Panitch and Greg Albo

followed by

Reaping the Whirlwind: Digitalization, Restructuring, and Mobilization in the Covid Crisis

Ursula Huws

Ursula Huws’ essay addresses the changes sweeping through global labor markets during the coronavirus pandemic, looking in particular at the concentration of capital and expansion of market share by global corporations, bringing with it the digital management of supply chains and an exponential growth in algorithmic control and surveillance of workers. Pandemic lockdown conditions have exposed very clearly the polarizations in the workforce between ‘fixed’ workers, physically isolated in their homes but closely monitored via their computers, working virtually, and the precariously employed mobile (‘footloose’) workers, disproportionately made up of black and migrant workers, equally closely monitored, who deliver the physical goods and services the home-bound need to survive and care for their bodily needs when they become sick, at great personal risk.

GREG ALBO teaches in the Department of Politics at York University. He is co-editor of the Socialist Register. Greg is also on the editorial boards of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, The Bullet and Historical Materialism. URSULA HUWS, Professor of Labor and Globalization at the University of Hertfordshire. She has been researching the social impacts of technological change, the restructuring of employment and the changing international division of labor since the 1970s. Ursula will visit The MEP again on February 21, to discuss her current book, Reinventing the Welfare State: Digital Platforms and Public Policies (Pluto FireWorks, 2020). STEVE MAHER is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, Canada, and Assistant Editor of Socialist Register.


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