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The Dream of Dignified Work: On Good and Bad Utopias


  • Ana Cecilia Dinerstein

  • I am grateful to the anonymous referees, to Amrita Chhachhi and Frederick Harry Pitts for their insightful suggestions made on the earlier versions of this article, and to Amrita Chhachhi (again) for her encouragement and support. I would like to acknowledge the financial support of the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Non-Governmental Public Action Programme (RES 15525-0007) which funded part of my research on the Piquetero movement.


To what extent are recent labour upsurges defensive struggles? This essay uses the experience of the Argentinean Movement of Unemployed Workers (also called the Piquetero movement) as the empirical basis for discussing the contribution of unemployed workers to the current reshaping of the labour question. The author offers an alternative interpretation of the Piqueteros’ experience of resistance that emphasizes their critique and alternative visions, and the transformations and alternatives that the movement put forward at a time when ‘labour’ was said to be defeated. The struggles of the unemployed workers in Argentina during the 1990s should not be classified as a defensive struggle for inclusion in the labour market, or as a demand for social security (although these demands were significant in the Piqueteros’ agenda); rather they should be seen as advancing significant changes at identity/organizational, socioeconomic and political institutional levels. These changes deserve special attention in terms of their significance for the reshaping of the labour question in the twenty-first century. The Piquetero utopia of dignified work does not rely on state policy such as Universal Income Support. Instead, the state and policy are mediations of the autonomous struggle for the prefigurations of a better society.