Alienation on a Flexible Labour Market

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Johan ALFONSSON, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
In this paper I argue that alienation is a growing problem in todays flexible labour market. With the example of Sweden, the purpose of the paper is to investigate the situation of the growing group of flexible on-call employees with the concept of alienation. During that last 30 years the working life has become more flexible and this group now constitutes 7 percent of all employees in Sweden. They are called in by the hour and need to move between different workplaces in their hunt for hours. The starting point is Marx quartered categorisation of alienation. However, I argue that Marx perspective, with the aim to explain capitalism in its most abstract way of functioning, cannot be translated directly to a concrete empirical level without risking of falling in to sociologism, were the subject is excluded from the analysis. On the other hand, the psychological perspectives, mainly derived from Seemans categorisation, risks turning into psychologism, were alienation is considered exclusively as a subjective experience rather then as alienated relations connected to an objective structure. Instead, I build on Jaeggis definition of alienation as “relations of relationlessness”. Here, relations rather then their experiences are in the centre of the analysis, and psychologism is avoided. Further, rather then consider the alienated relations as naturalistic, with no connection to the individual, I use Jaeggis concept of “qualified subjectivism”. From this perspective I analyse 18 interviews with on-call employees in order to investigate how employment affect their relation to work and private life. The results indicate that relations both inside as well as outside of work are liquefied and that parts of life are being reified. In this paper I stress the importance of the concept of alienation in order to understanding the effect of an increasingly flexible working life.