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Informal Labor, Formal Politics, and Dignified Discontent in India (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics)

Informal Labor, Formal Politics, and Dignified Discontent in India (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics)

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Rina Agarwala
Cambridge University Press
Edition: Illustrated, 5/30/2013
EAN 9781107663084, ISBN10: 1107663083

Paperback, 272 pages, 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.7 cm
Language: English

Since the 1980s, the world's governments have decreased state welfare and thus increased the number of unprotected 'informal' or 'precarious' workers. As a result, more and more workers do not receive secure wages or benefits from either employers or the state. This book offers a fresh and provocative look into the alternative social movements informal workers in India are launching. It also offers a unique analysis of the conditions under which these movements succeed or fail. Drawing from 300 interviews with informal workers, government officials and union leaders, Rina Agarwala argues that Indian informal workers are using their power as voters to demand welfare benefits from the state, rather than demanding traditional work benefits from employers. In addition, they are organizing at the neighborhood level, rather than the shop floor, and appealing to 'citizenship', rather than labor rights.

1. Introduction
informal workers' movements and the state
2. Struggling with informality
3. The success of competitive populism
4. Communism's resistance to change
5. Why accommodation leads to minimal gains
6. Conclusion
dignifying discontent.

“What a splendid book! In the face of market fundamentalism, Rina Agarwala shows how informal workers in India have managed to exploit competitive politics to wring concessions from the state. A chink of light in a bleak scene. Labor optimists and pessimists alike must read this book.” – Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

“Combining rigorous scholarship with remarkable empathy for her research subjects, Rina Agarwala illuminates the surprising capacity of informal sector workers in India to win victories even as the government turned to market-oriented policies. Her study forces us to think differently about the intersection of poverty, unions, government, and social movements.” – Fred Block, University of California, Davis

“The global rise of neoliberalism, and its increasing strength, means that whether in India or the United States, labor must develop new strategies and forms and organize new constituencies or be increasingly marginalized. As Agarwala brilliantly shows, neoliberalism weakens traditional union forms, increases the importance of informal labor, and – most importantly – creates possibilities for informal workers to act through new organizational forms that pressure the state.” – Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“This book explores the remarkable and surprising organizational successes of women workers in two sectors of India’s vast informal economy. In a masterful comparative analysis that cuts across three Indian states, Agarwala not only explains how these women have articulated and claimed rights as workers, but also provides a fascinating account of how their mobilization marks a new paradigm in labor organizing. For anyone interested in understanding the momentous social and economic transformation that India is going through, this is a must-read.” – Patrick Heller, Brown University

“This is a powerful and measured analysis of how India’s informal working class makes effective citizenship claims to the state. Dispelling the myth of an inevitable decline of the labor movement in an age of alleged neo-liberalization, this fascinating India story offers an indispensable beacon of hope for working people worldwide.” – Ching Kwan Lee, University of California, Los Angeles

“This is a beautifully crafted, path-breaking study that upends conventional wisdom about the relentless demise of labor movements. Agarwala’s lucid analysis of the ways in which precariously employed informal workers in India have organized to improve their status bristles with insights on every page. This superb book is a must-read not only for specialists in South Asia but for anyone interested in the future of the labor movement, in the global North as much as in the South.” – Ruth Milkman, City University of New York