Varieties of unfreedom

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Modern capitalist societies have been marked by persistence and growth in unfree labour. This chapter argues that attention to the varieties of unfreedom is necessary to understand the reproduction and distinctive nature of unfree labour in modern capitalist societies. There exist different sites of unfreedom: at the point of entry, within the labouring process itself and at the point of exit. At these different sites of unfreedom, different liberty-restricting concepts need to be invoked: involuntariness, domination, dependence, coercion and force. The chapter examines the forms of involuntariness at the point of entry into unfree labour which are central to its reproduction, the nature of domination and dependency within the labouring process and the limits to exit that are characteristic of modern forms of unfree labour. The argument picks up on three themes from the work of Andrew Sayer: the recognition of vulnerability and dependence in human existence in contrast to a purely agential conception of the human being; the centrality of human relationships to the constitution of the self and the ways in which they are a source of vulnerability; and the significance of labour to human well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics, Economy and Social Science
Subtitle of host publicationDialogues with Andrew Sayer
EditorsBalihar Sanghera, Gideon Calder
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781003247326
ISBN (Print)9781032161617, 9781032161631
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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