Taxi Professors: Academic Labour in Chile – Precarity and the Politics of Non-Identity [anti-value in motion]

 

Abstract to be considered for Marx, Engels and the Critique of Academic Labour: a special issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labour 

Authors:

Elisabeth Simbuerger Lecturer, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Valparaiso, Chile

elisabeth.simbuerger@uv.cl

Professor Mike Neary, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK

mneary@lincoln.ac.uk

Based on ongoing research about the production of neoliberal discourses and academic work in Chile, this paper discusses the organisation of academic labour as an expression of contemporary capitalism. The focus of our analysis will be on so called ‘taxi professors’, hourly paid academics that carry out the majority of teaching at Chilean universities (Rodriguez and Tello, 2012). The metaphor ‘taxi’ refers to them being ‘on call’ like taxi drivers, moving rapidly and often between different sites of teaching across cities in Chile. Drawing on qualitative interviews, we will discuss the daily work routines of taxi professors through the lens of Marxist social theory (Clarke, 1991; Postone, 1993,, Roggero, 2011; Winn, 2015) critical management studies (Bryson, 2004; Willmott, 2003) and the sociology of work (Braverman 1999, Nichols 1980). In contrast to the mainstream literature on academic identity (Billot, 2010; Clegg, 2008; Henkel, 2000), the discourses of the hourly paid academics we interviewed are not shaped merely by their sense of belonging to their disciplinary subject (Lucas 2006), or professional expertise (Tight, 2000) or sense of ‘precarity’ (Neilson and Rossiter 2008; Standing, 2011) or dysfunctionality between the core roles of teaching and research (Lucas, 2006), but fundamentally by the alienating and exploitative conditions of work to which they are exposed. Finally, we will argue that this focus on academic labour provides the basis on which to counteract the sense of ‘helplessness’ experienced through discourses about academic identity (Postone, 1991; Winn, 2014) , and enables academics to consider a critical response to their condition on the basis of the politics of non-identity (Holloway et al., 2009 ) and ‘anti-value in motion’ (Dinerstein, 2015, Dinerstein and Neary, 2002).

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