Precarious Work and "Middle Class" Struggles

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Seminarsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Elísio ESTANQUE, University of Coimbra, Portugal
The aim of this presentation is to analyze recent trends in the labor field, namely the phenomenon of precarious work, and its impact on professional categories considered as “middle class”. Empirical examples will be mentioned from Portuguese and Brazilian social movements (between 2011-2013). The process of "flexible" working conditions as well as the retreat of social welfare in Southern European countries, especially in the period of austerity, have been increasing vulnerability and impoverishing of the middle classes. This have been distorting and frustrating its consumer patterns and upward expectations.

So, the argument considere the process of insecurity and instability in the employment field and try to show the possible interconnections between: (i) discontent among the middle class strata resisting to their decline; (ii) a traditional working class / trade unionism on decommissioning; and (iii) a youth generation who is facing the blockade of their future. I will try to present some examples of social movements in Portugal / Spain on the one hand, and Brazil on the other. In the first case, the so called “Desperate Generation” (Geração à Rasca) specially the great demonstrations between 2011 and 2013, but also the impact of the changes imposed by austerity measures in the labor field until the end of the financial rescue. In the second case, the 2013 rebellions in Brazil carried the marks of an educated youth and very familiar with the cyberspace, and that, according to the criteria of income and education, belongs to the intermediate categories of social stratification, that is: middle class strata. Are the interconnections between "insecurity", expectations and the middle-class status structuring new subjectivities and forms of collective action to confront the austerity policies? Does middle class lifestyles still require the consistency of the welfare state or do they prefer to rebuilt a meritocratic society?