Taking destiny into their own hands: Autogestion and cooperation in Argentina’s worker-recuperated enterprises
Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (York University, Ontario)
Since the crisis of Argentina’s neoliberal model in the years spanning the turn of the millennium, almost 9,400 workers have occupied and now self-manage over 200 once-proprietary firms in distress, converting them overwhelmingly into worker cooperatives. As a result, Argentina’s empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores(worker-recuperated enterprises, or ERTs) can now be found throughout its economy,inspiring the imaginaries of workers the world over. In reappropriating firms that once employed them via projects of
autogestión (self-management), ERT workers transform businesses into democratic and socialized productive entities, directly address Argentina’s chronic under- and unemployment, and return control to workers.Grounded in critical theoretical approaches, this dissertation explores ERTs’ “prefigurative” possibilities for alternative economic arrangements, as well as the tensions interlacing them from having to exist within competitive markets. To better understand this “dual reality” of ERTs, the dissertation deploys an interdisciplinary, two-pronged grid of inquiry —a macro-level “political economy of the working class” axis of research, and micro-level key informant interviews with ethnographic case studies of three exemplar ERTs. This approach allows the study to delve into ERTs’ historical conjunctures, workers’ self-activity within the labour process under capitalism, and the transformations of protagonists from managed employees to self-managed workers.