Flexibility or Flexploitation: Shifting Power Relations in Organisation of Work

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Evren HOŞGÖR ÇIMEN, Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey
Rabia ULUYURT, Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey
The capitalist economy is undergoing a series of changes under the hegemony of neoliberal policies, which have generated a profound transformation in societal relations since the late-1970s. Accordingly, numerous theories emerged to define the “new society” and to re-formulate work and labour. While some of these explanations acknowledged the ongoing capitalist nature of societal relations, most referred to a radical disengagement from the previous era, celebrating the coming of a post-capitalist society, the end of class struggle and the rise of an un-alienated class of knowledge-workers. However, flexibility, whether in the labour market or labour process, has been a major force driving proletarianization over the last couple of decades, resulting in further exploitation – or flexploitation – of the labouring classes. This trend is affecting all segments of the working class including those who have been previously considered immune to insecurity. Therefore, despite the narrative of a brand-new society, a trend towards flexibilization of labour markets is evident across the globe, perhaps more so in the context of an emerging accumulation strategy based on knowledge, innovation and intellectual property rights.

The changes in Turkey’s labour regime since the turn of the millennium has been in line with those global trends. The articulation of Turkish economy to the global economy based on export of technology-intensive capital goods has particularly paved the ground for such a transformation as accumulation required increased productivity levels, as well as a skilled and highly flexible workforce. In this paper, we explore the concepts of flexibility and knowledge-based economy as material mechanisms and discursive aspects of accumulation. Our aim is to elaborate their role in the exercise of micro and macro technologies of control of labour both theoretically and empirically, and their reflections in material experiences of labouring class in the context of a late developing economy.