Squeezed Between Commodification and Formalization(s): An Ethnographic Case Study of Precarious Work
Part of a multi-sided ethnographic study on working conditions and social reproduction mechanisms of precarious workers employed in Istanbul’s second biggest industrial organized district, this paper contends that substantial formalizing interventions in social security, health provisions, housing and access to financial opportunities make workers much more dependent on labor market through a relentless discourse on economic stability and calculability of midterm goals. Here, formalization does not connote social citizenship endowed with certain rights. Rather, it’s extended by piecemeal within the dictates of uneven capitalist development.
In summary, this case study tries to understand how strictly market-led interventions in the field of social reproduction can reshape and regulate workers’ perceptions of precarious work despite a strong commodification. A historical comparison seems to provide a partial answer: Since processes of commodification highlighted as evidence of neoliberalism predate the neoliberal era in Turkey as in much of the global South, workers’ conceptions of precarity are essentially shaped by a comparison of benefits acquired during different periods with a similar labor market insecurity.