De/Re-centring work and class? A review and critique of labour geography

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In this paper I examine how labour geographer's research on the work-place, the wage relation and class have evolved and assess their implications for the sub-discipline. Since the early 1990s post-structural and post-structurally informed Marxist approaches have both challenged classical Marxism and added new insights. In particular, the former have de-centred the formal work-place as a site of value production, exploitation and class and emphasized the critical role of intersectionality of class with other identities such as gender and race. Paralleling and informing this shift has been a significant restructuring of capitalism as formerly stable employment is disrupted via (often global) outsourcing, downsizing and the blurring of enterprises and organizations. Thus post-structural perspectives have developed important insights into the active agency and the differentiated nature of labour, the work-place and class. Yet despite some congruence between post-structural and Marxist approaches I argue that there remain important empirical and theoretical concerning the work-place, the wage- relation and class. I conclude that while post-structural approaches are correct in arguing that the formal work-place and wage relation are not the exclusive sites of work, surplus production or class identity, over-emphasize the decline of the formal work-place and the wage relation's role in collectivity and class identity more traditional Marxian concerning this relationship remain powerfully relevant to both labour geography and progressive politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)768-777
Number of pages10
JournalGeography Compass
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Atmospheric Science


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