Designed and led by Professor Lisa Adkins at the University of Newcastle, Australia, the ‘Labouring Futures’ research framework delivers theoretically informed sociological knowledge on the composition of labour and labouring futures in post-Fordist capitalism. It does so in an apparently schizophrenic context. On the one hand capitalist accumulation processes have expanded to capture and work on ‘life’, while labour is increasingly valued for its intensive, indivisible properties. Yet on the other hand, the global economic crisis, ongoing recessions, sovereign debt crises, austerity measures and rising unemployment rates place economic and labouring futures in doubt, indeed render such futures both unimaginable and unliveable. While these developments appear contradictory and paradoxical and suggest major fissures in processes of post-Fordist capital accumulation, the key proposition forwarded by Adkins in this research framework is that they are not necessarily divided. Instead these apparently antithetical developments are understood to concern mutations in the temporal co-ordinates of capitalism.
In her research under this framework Adkins therefore posits that developments as diverse as strategies for the management of the unemployed; demands that governments and commercial organizations deliver liveable futures; and desires to return to the certainties of social capitalism via strategies of re-regulation, are all hard-wired to such transformations. Moreover, Adkins posits that the composition of labour and labouring futures (whether imaginable or not) should also be understood from the perspective of such mutations in time.
To consider such futures, under this framework Adkins delivers research across three distinct areas: