'The Ecology of Labour’
Guest Editors: Martin Ryle and Kate Soper
Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism is the journal of ASLE-UKI (the UK-Ireland branch of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment). It is a peer-reviewed journal published by Taylor and Francis and supported by Bath Spa University and the University of Worcester. Green Letters explores interdisciplinary interfaces between humans and the natural and built environment. Submissions (by abstract) are invited for our themed spring 2016 issue.
Contemporary forms and relations of labour continue a very long history of social exploitation and unequal access to education and culture. They also reflect forces recently unleashed by the globalization of the economy, by post-Fordist innovation in the organization and management of work, and by the revolution in information technology. Labour deserves the critical attention of green thinkers because it is both an integral component in the functioning and reproduction of our environmentally rapacious economy, and a fundamentally formative influence on the individual’s subjectivity, intellect and worldview. How do today’s dominant forms of work encourage and require acquiescence in eco-destruction, how might they provoke resistance to it, and what alternatives to them have been and are practiced, imagined and represented?
The organization of work today is characterized by its increasing subordination to the power of transnational companies, constantly relocating to find cheaper labour and resources; by the erosion of trade unions’ ability to determine work practices, but also by their collusion in environmentally damaging production; by the growing dominance of screen-based work, with its consequences for the pace and intensity of labour and for the forms of skill, compliance, attention and inattention it requires in the worker; by the evolution of less formally hierarchical relations in the work place, but also of new forms of corporatism and expectations of loyalty; by new norms of ‘affective labour’, especially in retail and service industries, and the acquiescence and resistance these are breeding; and by the demand, especially in media industries, for forms of ‘creativity’ that at once elicit and circumscribe individuals’ imaginative labour. Common to many of these developments is an intensifying work ethic which expects unprecedented self-commodification, an expectation increasingly reflected in academic curricula.
Labour, organised along these lines, reflects the ‘work and spend’ imperatives of the growth economy and consumer culture. Indeed, the history of work since the industrial revolution, and its representation in literary and artistic culture, offers important instances of and perspectives on the destructive tendencies of our age. Meanwhile, radical and utopian critiques of industrial and post-industrial capitalism have proposed alternative forms and relations of labour. Often, as in William Morris’s News from Nowhere, Andre Gorz’s Paths to Paradise, and the utopian fictions of Marge Piercy, the transformation of labour is integral to the vision of a sustainable, ecologically benign world. Such thinking has emphasized how the rational organization of labour, in the framework of a reproductive rather than ever-growing economy, could lead to a great expansion of free time; and also how labour, no longer subjected to the demand for maximum efficiency and to de-skilling and hyper-specialisation, might offer more of the satisfactions associated with ‘craft’. These critiques and visions provide a rich but relatively neglected cultural and philosophical resource for green thinking.
We call for contributions from any disciplinary or inter-disciplinary perspective that offer critical reflection on work and its representation, and on the different forms it might take in a society pursuing sustainable prosperity. Themes and topics may include
Green labour. How have writers and artists represented forms of work that involve and prefigure sustainable human interactions with the non-human world?
Labour in ecotopia. How would human labour, and the social relations that labour reflects and produces, be organised in an ecologically benign society? How have works of literature, philosophy and political theory imagined these alternative forms of labour?
The division of labour and the human mind/body. How has the social division of labour affected the human subject? What consequences do hyper-specialised forms of work bring for our knowledge of and attentiveness to the non-human world? What is, or was, the ecology of the ‘all-round’ woman /man?
Labour, free time, and consumption: the bad life and the good life. It is often and persuasively said that contemporary over-developed societies are marked by excessively intense labour on the one hand, and environmentally heedless consumption on the other. What resources can we find in artistic and philosophical culture that enable us to imagine a different and less destructive regime of time expenditure?
Each article will need to be accompanied by an abstract, a brief biographical note, and keywords. Manuscript length should be between 4000 and 6000 words and authors are asked to follow the journal’s ‘Instructions for Authors’ which can be found at the web address given below. Eventual submissions will be made via the Scholar One submission system, information on which will be provided on acceptance of the abstract. Please note that articles should have a broad ecocritical flavour and be informed, to some degree, by ecological theory.
To have a submission considered please send an abstract (maximum 500 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. The abstract should specify the envisaged word length of the finished article. It should be sent as an anonymous attachment in Word document format along with a covering email giving your name, address and institutional affiliation. The deadline for abstracts is 5th January 2015. A decision as to which articles will be commissioned will be made by the beginning of February 2015. The deadline for first draft submissions will be 1 September 2015.
For more information about Green Letters, see our website at http://tandfonline.com/loi/rgrl20.