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The tempo of wageless work: E. P. Thompson's time-sense at the edges of Rio de Janeiro

Kathleen M. Millar

Keywords: BRAZIL; EVERYDAY LIFE; LABOR; SUBJECTIVITY; TEMPORALITY; URBAN POVERTY; WASTE

Abstract

This article puts E. P. Thompson's writings on time-sense in conversation with the temporality of work on a garbage dump in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At this site, several thousand urban poor (catadores) collect recyclables for a living outside relations of wage labor. The lived experience of “woven time” on the dump, which combines labor with other activities of the everyday, has fashioned what these workers call “a different rhythm of life.” Diverging from other temporalities of neoliberal capitalism, such as “ruptured time,” woven time emerges as an important dimension of a life well lived, as conceived by catadores. Attention to the micro-temporalities of wageless work reveals how precarious forms of labor in contemporary capitalism constitute processes of subject making that both parallel and diverge from the transition to wage labor that Thompson describes in his social history of capitalism.

Affiliations

Millar, Kathleen M. - Simon Fraser University