Contention has now reached its eighth volume and fifteenth issue, and we have been delighted to see the journal move from attainment to attainment over the past eight years. Contention has developed a reputation for publishing high-quality research, articles, and analyses in the fields of social protest, collective action, and contentious politics, soliciting contributions from world-leading scholars and early career academics alike. Its articles are strongly interdisciplinary and global in nature, with the journal offering a platform for research that crosses old-fashioned national and theoretical boundaries. We were delighted to see such merits recognized by the recent inclusion of Contention in the SCOPUS database. Together with the European Reference Index for the Humanities and Social Sciences, where the journal is already indexed, the inclusion of Contention in SCOPUS will bring further visibility to the scholarly work we publish, facilitating its diffusion by providing an even stronger opportunity to contribute to international scholarly dialogue.
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Giovanni A. Travaglino and Benjamin Abrams
This thirteenth issue of the journal (Volume 7, Issue 1, July 2020) begins with Roberto Frega’s (CNRS) article “Against Analogy: Why Analogical Arguments in Support of Workplace Democracy Must Necessarily Fail”. Frega invites democratic and political theorists committed to the democratization of the workplace to ground themselves in specifics. Instead of working through metaphor and analogy which risks treating workplaces or firms as more or less the same, Frega argues we should first take issue with the question of which workplace or firm and thereafter work through the problem of how it can democratize. Analogies, Frega convincingly shows, simply do not have this productive capacity.
Governmentality and profit extraction through fabricated abundance and imposed scarcity in Peru and Spain
Ismael Vaccaro, Eric Hirsch and Irene Sabaté
As a result of the financialization of household and national economies, indebtedness has become a system of domination shaping the making of contemporary subjects. This sort of governmentality through debt is a multifaceted phenomenon affecting people’s economic and political behavior in both the North and the South. Disguised and legitimized by the moral obligation to repay debts, and by promises of upward social mobility (for the working classes in the North) and of development (for the population of the Global South), indebtedness disciplines households and neutralizes political agency under finance capitalism, as our ethnographic examples on the mortgage crisis in Spain and on microfinance in Peru reveal.
How Medieval Ideas of Time Influenced the Development of Mechanical Reproduction of Texts and Images
The methods of intellectual history have not yet been applied to studying the invention of technology for printing texts and images ca. 1375–ca. 1450. One of the several conceptual developments in this period reflecting the possibility of mechanical replication is a view of the relationship of eternity to durational time based on Gregory of Nyssa’s philosophy of time and William of Ockham’s. The article considers how changes in these ideas helped enable the conceptual possibilities of the dissemination of ideas. It describes a direct connection of human perceptual knowledge to divine knowledge that enhanced the authority of printed production to transfer and reproduce the true and the good.
English abstract: This article addresses the importance of understanding the ethical values that underpin cross-border cooperation (CBC). This is done by elaborating a theoretical framework that focuses on the ethical dimension of CBC. A clear distinction is drawn between an ethical and a normative dimension of CBC. The article argues that European CBC policies lack a defined conceptualization of ethical, humanistic, and value-laden bases. By considering three ethical values—rootedness, empathy, and justice—underpinning European governance, this research finds that the operationalization of these values helps to overcome a consumeristic approach, according to which people are passive consumers of CBC. The analysis shows why and how the operationalization of these key ethical values develops a cross-border community where people feel responsible for the territory perceived as a “common good.”
Spanish abstract: Este artículo aborda la importancia de comprender los valores éticos que sustentan las actividades de cooperación transfronteriza (CBC) mediante un marco teórico centrado en explorar la dimensión ética de CBC. Una distinción clara plantea la dimensión ética de la CBC frente a la normativa. El punto ciego de las políticas de CBC europeas yace en la ausencia de una conceptualización definida de las bases éticas y humanísticas. Los valores éticos de arraigo, empatía y justicia sustentan las actividades de CBC, y su operacionalización ayuda a superar la aproximación consumista. El análisis muestra por qué y cómo la operacionalización de estos valores éticos contribuye a desarrollar una comunidad transfronteriza en la que las personas se sientan responsables del territorio percibido como un “bien común”.
French abstract: Pourquoi est-il important de mieux comprendre les valeurs qui sous-tendent les activités de coopération transfrontalière? Cet article aborde cette question à partir d’un cadre théorique centré sur l’exploration de la dimension éthique de la coopération transfrontalière en la distinguant de la dimension normative. Il soutient que la faiblesse des politiques européennes de coopération transfrontalière ne réside pas dans l’absence “normative”, mais dans le manque d’une conceptualisation précise de ses bases éthiques et humanistes. En considérant trois valeurs - l’enracinement, l’empathie et la justice - qui sous-tendent les activités de coopération transfrontalière, cette étude conclut que leur opérationnalisation aide à surmonter une approche consumériste de la coopération transfrontalière, selon laquelle les gens sont des consommateurs passifs. L’analyse montre pourquoi et comment l’opérationnalisation de ces trois valeurs contribue à développer une communauté transfrontalière dans laquelle les personnes se sentent responsables du territoire transfrontalier perçu comme un “bien commun”.
“Studying Up” the Global Division of Labor and Mobility in the Humanitarian Industry in Jordan
In migration studies, humanitarian work and workers are studied as benefactors or managers of migrants and refugees. This article inverts the gaze from “researching down” refugees to “studying up” the humanitarian structure that governs them. The article studies how the humanitarian industry ballooned after the Syrian refugee response in Jordan due to the influx of expatriate humanitarians as economic migrants from the global North to refugee situations in the host country in the global South. It examines the global division of mobility and labor among expatriate, local, and refugee humanitarian workers, investigating the correlation between geographic (horizontal) mobility and social/professional (vertical) mobility, demonstrating that the social and professional mobility of workers depends on their ability to access geographic mobility. Thus, rather than advocating for and facilitating global mobility, the humanitarian industry maintains a colonial division of labor and mobility. This raises the question: who benefits most from humanitarian assistance?
Narratives of Romanian Construction Workers in London
The vast majority of literature on migrant masculinities presents situations where migration challenges normative forms of manhood—“undoing gender.” Yet for the Romanians who come to London, migration has the opposite effect, as men are drawn into the wide and lucrative building industry. The article follows constructions of masculinity through an analysis of: (1) the working environment of Romanian men, generally characterized as ridden with risk; (2) the gender dynamics in the household; and (3) the temporariness of the men’s migration in London. The article demonstrates that, in this case, mobility does not entail a “gender compromise,” but a reinforcement of hypermasculine traits, necessary to succeed in an environment seen as highly competitive and risky.
Notes on the incorporation of Argentina's subproletariat into consumer credit (2009–2015)
This article investigates how the Argentine subproletariat perceives the recent consumer credit boom, based on several field visits carried out in one of Argentina’s industrial hubs between 2007 and 2016. It analyzes the credit boom in relation to the wider social transformations induced by the leftist Peronist governments during 2003–2015 (especially the incorporation of informal workers into the social protection system). It argues the rise of consumer credit is perceived by those who use it with ambivalence. While it has allowed the subproletariat to access a form of consumption that was previously restricted to upper classes, it also exposes this population to a new form of exploitation based on the discrepancy between the (monthly based) time of finance and the (erratic) time of work.
Tax Evasion, the State, and Commoning in a Catalonian Cooperative
Vinzenz Bäumer Escobar
This article challenges the seemingly inseparable conceptual link between tax and the state by drawing on fieldwork carried out with an anti-capitalist cooperative in Barcelona, where tax evasion went hand in hand with the pooling of common monetary resources used for the creation of semi-public goods managed by non-state actors. Drawing on theoretical insights from the commons, I will put forward the concept of the ‘fiscal commons’ in order to decenter tax as an analytic for making sense of the relation between the state and civil society. In so doing, I will argue that taxes are part of a broader repertoire of financial contributions that people draw on to actively create different fiscal commons that operate alongside and in relation to the state’s tax regime.
A Struggle for Representation in the Discourse of the Polish Great Emigration, 1832–1846/48
This article presents a conceptual history of representation in the political debates of the Polish émigré community in the period 1832–1846/48. As I argue, while the concept was present in the output of all political environments of the Polish Great Emigration, there were more discrepancies than similarities about how to understand it. As a result of debates about what the Polish diaspora in exile actually was and who had the right to represent it, the concept became a part and parcel of political frays. In this way, the right to use it—and consequently to represent the whole Polish community and Polish nation as well—occupied a central place in the evolution of the concept of representation.