Professor Lisa Adkins

Assembling Unemployment

Lisa Adkins

Newcastle University, University of Turku and Tampere


In a context of widespread unemployment and underemployment, and especially the intensification of policy measures ostensibly designed to render the unemployed, the underemployed, the wageless and the jobless more employable, in this talk I ask: in the context of post-Fordist accumulation, do social scientists need to rethink unemployment? Do demands that the unemployed perform all manner of activities − including work activities − suggest that instead of antithetical to work and working, or as time out from work, the relationship between employment and unemployment as well as between economy and society needs to be rethought?

The activities demanded of the unemployed by the policy measures of reformed welfare states have, of course, been registered across a range of literatures. But instead of understanding such measures as buttressing deregulated flexible labour markets via the provision of a free and/or cheap source of labour, or as keeping a standing surplus population ready for work, or indeed as disciplining and reformatting subjects who have deficient and/or insufficient human capital, I ask what if social scientists understood such measures to be operating differently? What if such measures are better understood in terms of economization, that is, the process of the folding of the economy into society? Would this better enable social scientists to grasp how the materiality of ‘unemployment’ is being actively rewritten and also how this rewriting is implicated in a reworking of the economy-society relation?          


Lisa Adkins is an Academy of Finland Distinguished Professor (FiDiPro) 2015-2019 hosted by the University of Tampere and the University of Turku and BHP Billiton Professor of Sociology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She has previously held posts at Goldsmiths, University of London; the University of Manchester; and the Australian National University (ANU).

Her contributions and interventions in the discipline of Sociology lie in the areas of economic sociology (especially the sociology of labour), social and cultural theory and feminist theory. She is recognised for her development of innovative approaches to and conceptualisations of  the restructuring of labour in the context of post-Fordism and for pushing towards new understandings of the relationships between work, unemployment and under-employment. The latter forms part of her FiDiPro research. She is keenly interested in how Sociology as a discipline can be reshaped to account for the reconstitution of the economy-society relation in contemporary capitalism.

Her recent research focuses on the restructuring of labour, money and time in post-Fordist capitalism. Publications from this research have appeared in a number of journals including South Atlantic Quarterly, Feminist Review and Social Epistemology. Her next book The Time of Money extends this work. She is also co-editing a collection, New Arrangements of Gender and Labour in Post-Fordist Times (Palgrave). She is joint editor-in-chief of the journal Australian Feminist Studies (Routledge/Taylor&Francis).


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Tel. +358 29 450 5000

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