Postdoc research financed by the SNF Early Postdoc.Mobility Program (2017-2018)

Economy of Hope:
Recuperated factories and Workers' self-Management in contemporary france

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The ongoing global financial crisis has led to radical forms of protest and new labor struggles all over the world. This research project investigates the social practice and affective politics of autogestion, or workers’ control, in contemporary France. Investigating the potential for reconstituting work and recomposing life through autogestion constitutes an urgent matter in the context of EU’s austerity policy and debt crisis. At the core of my research are recuperated companies that are based on a collective and social form of ownership and council forms of democracy, striving for economic alternatives beyond capitalism. Does autogestion and alternative cooperativism constitutes a viable solution, not only to increasing unemployment and poverty but also to the exploitation of capitalist production? By understanding workers’ choices and practices in a precarious situation, this project will explore which economic and socio-political possibilities, as well as hopeful strategies, are available and viable in a new era where work and labor are becoming increasingly scarce. My research is designed around two questions: First, I will investigate how autogestion is practiced and experienced in workers’ controlled companies in France today. Second, I am studying which hopes for the future and visions for change in regards to an alternative economy come into being in the workers’ control movement. The analysis of both the individual experiences of the workers and the political practices and visions of the movement is crucial to understand the contemporary and future challenges of a social and solidarity economy in Europe.

For answering my research questions, I will deploy ethnographic filmmaking as my primary method. My project is thus conceived of as a practice-based research that integrates conventional empirical research with observational cinema.
The Early Postdoc.Mobility project will be an important contribution to academic debates on alternative economies, adding new insights to the established fields of political and economic anthropology. More specifically, by bringing together hope and the economy in one analytical approach, I seek to make a critical contribution to the field of the anthropology of morality. Also, this research project will give insight into the composition and rationale behind the European workers’ control movement, their goals, and ideas for the creation of a new workers’ economy as well as their utopian visions and desires. It also adds new insights to the field of audiovisual anthropology, expanding anthropological scholarship on observational cinema by proposing new ways of presenting human experiences and affects. My research will produce the first ethnographic film on recuperated companies and workers’ self-management in Europe. Finally, this study is meant to recapture a sense of optimism to social theory and progressive leftist politics.