Jamie McCallum, Associate Professor of Sociology, Middlebury College
"Labor's Forgotten Fight: Renewing the Struggle for Shorter Hours Under Neoliberalism"
Professor McCallum inaugurated the spring 2021 colloquium speaker series with a talk on his recent book. As its title suggests, he is concerned with temporality and labor in the United States—specifically, with the way in which new techniques and technologies of surveillance and time management increasingly render American workplaces sites of unbearable stress for those employed in them. Recent accounts of Amazon delivery people under such strict deadlines that they are forced to use bottles rather than bathrooms are only one instance of the phenomenon McCallum has undertaken to study, which is widespread and increasingly pernicious. At its root, McCallum argues, is the increasing power given to regulation-by-management. As he noted, these steps have undone the historical work labor activism played in allowing workers control over—and fair compensation for—their labor time. He closed by suggesting increasing restiveness and organization among (e.g.) service industry workers are harbingers of a burgeoning resistance to managerial efforts to micromanage the time clock.
McCallum is an activist as well as a scholar—something that reveals itself in the desire to write an accessible book addressing crises in labor that could be of use to non-academics as well as of interest to the academy. And in fact, many of the colloquium questions addressed precisely the strategies needed to diffuse academic resources among wider audiences, as well as the concomitant desirability of academics learning from those engaged in, and organizing, workplace struggle.
Jamie McCallum is associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College. His research and teaching interests emerge from both scholarly inquiry and activist commitments. His latest book Worked Over: How Round-the-Clock Work is Killing the American Dream is available now.