Making and unmaking of class: An inquiry into the working class experiences of garment workers in Istanbul under flexible and precarious conditions

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Turkey

Approval Date: 2012




This thesis analyzes class experiences of workers under flexible and precarious conditions of global neoliberal capitalism and tries to answer to what extent these conditions erode their capacities to develop antagonistic class consciousness and collective struggles. Specifically, based on a fieldwork consisting of semi-structured in-depth interviews with 24 workers living in slums of Istanbul, it deals with cultural analysis of working and daily-life experiences of workers involved in the global production of garments. Three categories of analysis are used: experiences of shame, time and necessity, which respectively suggest that, under conditions of precarity and flexibility, the workers, 1. perceive their class positions as personal and feel themselves inadequate, leading to questioning of self-worth, injuries in the self and individual - but not collective - emancipation attempts to escape from the injuring effects of class; 2. have lost not only their control over their present time through extremely long and irregular working hours; but also are ripped of their capacity to plan/organize their future; 3. live under the burden of continuous and persistent concern over necessities, which results in deep-seated sense of deprivation, impoverishment of life experiences, lack of meaning in this life, killing of hopes and consequentially experience of powerlessness. Yet, despite all these alienating experiences, there are also inchoate seeds of revolt and an alternative worldview, which confirms that class struggle exists even – and indeed (!) – in most severe conditions of alienation and will be decisive on the emancipatory dialectics of alienation / nonalienation and making / unmaking of class.