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Arbetslöshet och arbetsfrihet

Moral, makt och motstånd

Maria Andersson

Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala 2003 181 s.
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

Unemployment is constructed as a problem by institutions and individuals, at a structural as well as individual level. In the "black discourse" of unemployment, power is produced by talking and naming, by symbolic images, by dichotomisation and hierarchisation of categories based on the fundamental dichotomy of nature/reason, but also by feelings, actions and bodies. The well-being of the unemployed is constantly threatened by this discourse, yet they nevertheless reproduce it when necessary. But there is resistance to all this. First, there is a resistance against politicians and former employees in particular and elites in general. Then there is a reflexive resistance, characterised by a critique and de-legitimation of the myths of unemployment and thereby the modern work ethic. This depreciation of values and a relativistic standpoint is seen here as a sign of a representational crisis. In the practising of a life free from work, I also see a kind of resistance. The women seem to need what I call an "existential space", sometimes fulfilled in unemployment. The men living happily without work seem to need an ideological legitimation of this, rejecting the materialistic lifestyle in the contemporary western world. Finally, I see a kind of "practised resistance" (often unintended) in alternative outcome, such as the mutual help in a "moral economy", small-scale cultivating, fishing and hunting and economic strategies. Since the discourse of unemployment is motivated by the relation between the modern institutions of wage labour and capitalism, the activities based on other relations, such as reciprocity and non-consumption in this case, can be defined as a kind of resistance. It is a resistance readable in the effect, not the intention, of it.