Beyond the Future of Work

As a part of our long-term project on global inequality, we have begun a project entitled “beyond the future of work.” We aim to challenge dominant institutional and political discourses on the future of work, which overwhelmingly focus on what they see as new threats to wage-labor, primarily in the context of manufacturing. Those discourses fail to capture the historical and ongoing racialized, gendered, and (neo)colonial patterns of accumulation and reproduction of power and wealth. As formal labor’s share of national income continues to shrink around the world, these patterns become apparent in the ways that informal employment, underemployment, and non-waged work increasingly characterize the lives of many. The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered these fault lines even more apparent, illuminating the vulnerabilities of workers on the margins of—if essential to—global capitalism.

In collaboration with a number of partners, we are working to move beyond conventional frames and discourses on the future of work in a variety of ways.

  • Fall 2020 Colloquium, “Inequality, Labor, and Human Rights: The Future of Work in the Age of Pandemic”: A lecture series featuring an interdisciplinary group of scholars exploring cutting-edge issues on the past, present, and future of work, in light of deeply entrenched inequality within and across countries.
  • The Persistence of Inequality: “Essential” Work and COVID-19: A series of reports based on research carried out over the summer by researchers from the Rapoport Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Harvard University, and Northeastern Law School on five identified COVID-19 “hot-spots,” including the construction industry in Austin.
  • 2021 Pop-Up Institute: “Beyond the Future of Work: New Paradigms for Addressing Global Inequality”: An inter-disciplinary and cross-campus initiative supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research. This initiative expands the boundaries of our investigation by engaging researchers from across the University of Texas campus.
  • Fall 2021 Colloquium, “Inequality, Labor, and Human Rights: The Future of Work in an Age of Pandemic”: A lecture series featuring an interdisciplinary group of scholars who will explore a variety of sites to consider how the valuation of labor allocates resources in ways that maintain and reproduce historical patterns of racialized and gendered domination, subordination, and accumulation. Together, the speakers will introduce new possibilities for thinking beyond productive value and formal work to generate more equitable imaginaries of work and livelihood.
  • Beyond Inequality: Collaboration with an international and interdisciplinary team of leading scholars from law, history, geography, sociology, and economics to synthesize the methods of racial capitalism, world system-theory, and distributional analysis to produce new approaches to the past, present, and future of work.

Please also see the Rapoport Center’s previous work and resources on labor, inequality, and human rights.

Project & Publications Type: Global Inequality