Work Under Democracy: Labor, Gender and Arendtian Citizenship

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Date
2013
Authors
Staudinger, Alison Kathryn
Advisor
Elkin, Stephen
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Abstract
In the interest of promoting a co-constitutive theory of democratic citizenship, this dissertation explores three questions. I ask how work is defined and how this definition creates a hierarchy of types of work, which then leads to my second question, which is how definitions of work or what is not work are carried over into the public space of poli- tics and citizenship, such that even legal citizens may be marginalized by the type of work that they do. I first critique democratic theory, particularly as centered on the idea of the public sphere, for failing to think about work, especially the labor that is required to build these political spaces. I then show how the contemporary economy challenges the ability of citizens to engage in political work because it produces conditions of pre- carious labor, ubiquitous work, the depoliticization of work itself, and incompatibility of wage labor and family life. I use two historical case studies to explore how groups have claimed collective rights housed in the substantive needs of communities when asserting the validity of their work for citizenship. I look to the Articles of Confederation and Daniel Shays for an example focused on waged labor, and then the temperance and Anti-temperance movements for a consideration of gendered reproductive labor. I then address my third question, which is whether it is possible to promote the political work of co-constituting a shared public world without also denigrating the labor, particularly care labor, that is supportive of this project. I claim it is possible, with the aid of Hannah Arendt's understanding of the complex interrelations between action, work and labor and locating of citizenship in the work of world building. I argue for the support of this conception of work and agnostic institutionalism, despite the challenges of the contemporary economy, by advocating for a coalition-based democratic politics aimed at supporting the compatibility of work and family for people who do all sorts of work.
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