Call for Papers

Workers’ Inquiry Stream, Future of Global Worker Rights – Washington, DC, Nov 2019

21st Jan 2019

Continuing the Struggle: The International Labor Organization (ILO) Centenary and the Future of Global Worker Rights conference to be held in Washington, DC 2019, November 21-22, 2019

Stream conveners:

Jamie Woodcock, Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, @jamie_woodcock,

Robert Ovetz, Ph.D., Lecturer, Political Science, San Jose State University, California, USA,

This stream builds on the “Work” stream from the Historical Materialism London conference in 2017 and 2018. In collaboration with Notes from Below, we are inviting contributions on the subject of work, workers’ inquiry, and class composition. As Marx explained in his call for a workers’ inquiry, ‘socialists . . . must wish for an exact and positive knowledge of the conditions in which the working class – the class to whom the future belongs – works and moves.’ In the 1950-1970s Marxists in France, Italy, the UK and the US rediscovered Marx’s project and further developed the methodology. This stream seeks to re-invigorate the workers’ inquiry. In this stream we propose drawing together papers that examine the changing shape of work and self-organised workplace struggle today.

We invite abstracts for papers that use the method of workers’ inquiry. For this stream, we conceive of the method broadly as workers’ inquiry “from below”in which workers’ own experience is used as the basis for analysis, either by the researcher, the worker themselves, or in a process of co-research. We also embrace the method of workers inquiry “from above” in which researchers analyze self-organised workers struggle both in the past and present. Papers must draw on some form of empirical data about work, which can be from the author’s own experience. Following from previous HM streams, we are particularly keen to encourage workers to submit abstracts about their own experiences (and are happy to work together in advance of the deadline on proposals).

We expect papers to address (or at least in part) the following:

•        the changing technical composition of work (how work is organised and managed, what kinds of labour is involved, the use of technology, and management techniques to counter worker organising)

•        the social composition of workers (how workers are organised in society, for example, divisions by race, gender, nationality, living conditions, cultures, access to support of various kinds)

•        the political (re-)composition of workers (how workers organise politically, including a range of new strategies and tactics including resistance, refusal, circulation of struggles, and political organisations)

•        methods of workers’ inquiry from above and below grounded in archival or empirical research

Please submit your 150 word maximum abstract to Jamie Woodcock ( and Robert Ovetz ( by February 28, 2019. Full 6,000 word maximum draft manuscripts will be due October 14, 2019. You must register by the deadline if you are accepted for the stream.