3: How to Grasp Agency: The Power Resources Approach

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As this book seeks to move away from a deterministic analysis, its analytical framework includes not just how workers are organized but also how they organize themselves. This chapter thus provides the second part of its analytical framework to investigate the agency of workers. While this does not constitute the focus of the book, it refers to the importance of class consciousness and subjectivity, in order to bridge the relations of alienation within the larger analysis of agency. It then focuses on sketching out the Power Resources Approach (PRA), inspired primarily, but not exclusively, by the works of Beverly Silver and Erik Olin Wright. It presents four different power resources that workers mobilize while navigating (counteracting) political–economic conditions. Understanding these power resources as co-evolving with one another and bound to their larger context, this chapter first presents the structural power of workers (marketplace and workplace), tying the latter to different forms of resistance. It then moves on to discuss associational power, institutional power and societal power (coalitional and discursive power). The analysis of these power resources is integral to examining the case studies, highlighting labor’s different efforts in organizing and fostering solidarity given the implications but to an extent also possibilities of the differing nature of the platform and of the work.

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