The violence of stability : an investigation of the subjectivity of labour in Argentina
This thesis offers an investigation of the transformation of the subjectivity of labour in Argentina. The global capitalist crisis of the 1970s produced a unique recomposition of capitalist social relations worldwide. For the first time capital asserted itself as a global social imagery in which it was seen as free and detached from labour. This 'disconnection' between capital and labour is deeply disempowering, for it denies the source of social transformation (labour) in favour of the reification of an abstraction (capital). In Argentina this was manifested during the 1990s through the exaltation of 'Stability' as the solution to Argentine's chronic political and economic crisis, as well as the belief in the defeat of labour altogether. Although stability was considered the main achievement of President Menem's period in power (1989-1999), persistent social and labour conflict evoked a re-examination of widely shared assumptions regarding both the crisis of labour and the triumph of neoliberalism in Argentina. Analyses of what Menemism meant in political, economic, social and legal terms are abundant. Yet, missing has been an adequate interrogation and questioning of the theoretical categories and methods used to grasp the new reality of labour. The thesis aims to contribute to an understanding of the current forms of resistance in Argentina by means of a theoretical proposal and an historical and empirical analysis. The thesis is divided into three parts and a theoretical introduction. Chapter one considers Marx's writing and recent developments in Marxist theory of the state, value, money and subjectivity. The chapter discusses the significance of Marx's method of determinate abstraction for an understanding of the subjectivity of labour in capitalist social relations. Going beyond the formulation that the state, money and the law are real illusions which mediate the capital relation (Clarke, 1991, Holloway and Picciotto 1977), I offer the notion of subjectivity of labour as a determinate abstraction, i. e. as a transient and contradictory form of being which emerges vis-ä-vis a particular- and contradictory-articulation of the subjective aspects (identity, organisations and resistance) and the social forms (political, economic and social) which mediate labour as a social activity. Subjectivity is a 'site of conjunction' which articulates the concrete and abstract aspects of labour within the subject. This theoretical framework constitutes the analytical and methodological bases for my research. Part I explores five historical forms of subjectivity which emerged as dramatic expressions of the social relation of capital: the Anarchist (1920s), the Peronist (1940s), the Anti-imperialist (1960s), the Revolutionary (1970s) and the Democratic (1980s). The historical journey aims to show how labour made history by taking dramatic forms which encapsulated crisis, deconstruction and renewed integration into another form. The three chapters which comprise Part II offer a detailed analysis of the transformation of the subjectivity of labour in the 1990s, by looking at the recomposition of the state, labour reform and stabilisation policies, and employment and social policy. Although stabilisation policies led to the halt of hyperinflation, they became the lynchpin for the deep social, economic and political recomposition of social relations, leading to the decentralisation of labour, the reorganisation of trade union activity into business and opposition unionism, the expansion of social conflict, the casualisation and flexibilisation of labour, social insecurity, unemployment and poverty. The notion of subjectivity as determinate abstraction allows us to understand the paradoxical disjunction between the policies presented as the source of stability and the unstable, insecure and unhappy forms of private and social life. Moving beyond the debate of 'stability vs. instability', this paradox is explored through a detailed study of one of the main forms of social protest in 1990s Argentina: the roadblocks organised by casual and state workers, the unemployed and the socalled marginal social layers. As a determinate abstraction, the roadblock appears as an embodiment of the subjective, political, economic and social transformation within stability. Thus, roadblocks do not destabilise stability, as some scholars suggest, but rather stability destabilises human lives, since, as a form of class antagonism, it legalises, legitimises and celebrates uncertainty - the end of labour as the source of power in society and the end of politics. The roadblock stands against the violence of stability which causes labour to virtually disappear through poverty and unemployment.