WINNER of The Gertrude J. Robinson Book Prize, awarded by the Canadian Communication Association, and the Canadian Association of Work and Labour Studies, Book of the Year Award.
This book examines the striking rise of call centres over the past quarter century through the lens of the resistance and collective organizing generated by workers along the digital assembly lines. Drawing on field research in Atlantic Canada, Ireland, Italy, and New Zealand, Enda Brophy investigates the contested making of the transnational call centre workforce and its integration into the circuits of global capitalism. Moving beyond depictions of call centre labour as either entirely liberated or utterly subordinated, Language Put to Work inquires into the forms of work refusal and insubordination provoked by the spread of these communicative workplaces, including informal strategies of quitting, slacking and sabotage, conventional trade union activity, tactical innovations at the margins of the labour movement, and forms of self-organization forged by workers outside of the established trade union movement. Weaving rich empirical evidence together with political-economic analysis and theories of resistance, this book argues that the submission of language to the production of value in the call centre is a process of proletarianization rather than professionalization, and that the new working class has widely opposed this transformation.
About the Author
Enda Brophy is Associate Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, Canada.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Subterranean Stream.- 1. Communicative Capitalism and Call Centre Labour.- 2. Labour's Resistance in the Call Centre.- 3. The Making of the Call Centre Cybertariat.- 4. The Migration of Struggle.- 5. The Organization of Autonomy.- 6. The Making and the Unmaking of the Global Call Centre Workforce.
What People are Saying About This
“Language put to work, human communication subjected to the accumulation of capital: this is quite possibly the most important and dramatic transformation of our time. Whoever wants to understand the major transformations in the field of production and daily life must read Brophy’s outstanding book.” (Franco Berardi, independent scholar, Italy)
“As we waited with baited breath for the arrival of the knowledge worker, we did not expect human communication to be turned into factory work. In this audacious book on call centre work, Brophy not only uncovers the subjugation of language to communicative capitalism, he also reveals the creative possibilities of labor resistance and alternate trajectories.” (A. Aneesh, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, USA)
“This is a comprehensive, theoretically informed, lucidly written, beautifully researched and ultimately inspiring study of one the front lines of class struggle in digital capitalismthe call centre. Brophy gives us the living voices of workers on the tele-assembly lines speaking out against their managerial reduction to profitable, abstract communication; we should listen.” (Nick Dyer-Witheford, University of Western Ontario, Canada)