The dream of dignified work: On good and bad utopias

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To what extents are recent labour upsurges defensive struggles? I use the experience of the Argentinean Movement of Unemployed Workers (also called the Piquetero movement) as my empirical basis for discussing the contribution of unemployed workers to the current reshaping of the labour question. I offer an alternative interpretation of the Piquetero experience of resistance that emphasises their critique and alternative visions, and the transformations and alternatives that the movement put forward at a time when ‘labour’ was said to be defeated. The struggles of the unemployed workers in Argentina during the 1990s should not be classified as a defensive struggle for inclusion in the labour market or as a demand for social security (although these demands were significant in the Piqueteros’ agenda), but rather as advancing significant changes at identity/organizational, socioeconomic and political institutional levels — changes that deserve special attention in terms of their significance for the reshaping of the labour question in the twenty-first century. The Piquetero utopia of dignified work does not rely on state policy such as Universal Income Support. Rather, the state and policy are mediations of their autonomous struggle for the prefigurations of a better society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1037-1058
Number of pages22
JournalDevelopment and Change
Issue number5
Early online date27 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2014


  • movement of unemployed workers
  • Argentina
  • the labour question
  • debate
  • universal income support
  • community projects
  • policy
  • unemployment
  • dignity
  • politics
  • real subsumption
  • utopia
  • territories of hope


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