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Whether one is employed or unemployed depends on both a series of sociopolitical processes and individual career paths. Work subjectivities—both as a way of thinking about access to resources and as the pursuit of a life with dignity—allows understanding how people give meaning to the tasks they perform in order to earn a living. In Argentina, since the 1970s, full-time employment and access to salaried work, as well as social benefits through employment, have been central components of the work subjectivities of thousands of people. Salaried work and benefits continue to be the way one accesses a dignified life, even as the labor force deteriorates. At the same time, there are thousands of people who have never earned a living through employment or a “job” and who embody different work subjectivities. The work subjectivities of people who are not “formal” employees allow us to reconstruct the lines between employment and unemployment, between work and nonwork, and between lives controlled by salaried work and those that are not.


Mariano D. Perelman

Since the early 21st century the US dollar has been a public issue in Argentina, where the dollarization of sectors of the economy has been an ongoing process for some time. Indeed, circulation of the dollar has grown to the point that it is considered the best way to build savings and has a significant influence on daily economic life. Since 1980, the process of dollarization and outbreak of economic crises have been intertwined. This period can be divided into different crises: 1989 was a crisis of hyperinflation, 2001 was a major debt crisis, and the 2011–2015 crisis grew out of a struggle between the middle classes and the government in response to a ban on buying and accumulating dollars in large quantities. This latest round of crisis continues. Money is a universal measurement of value, encompassing values beyond the purely economic. In Argentina, the US dollar both activates crisis and is activated by crisis. Quotidian rituals have developed and standardized in conjunction with the popularization of the dollar, making it a central object of everyday life in Argentina. Indeed, the dollar provides an excellent starting place for a decently thorough history of contemporary Argentina. By focusing on the relationships and practices that have developed around the dollar, one can begin to understand how flesh and blood people have worked to build dignified lives and ways of living in relationship to one another. The dollar, both as a form of currency and in its demonetarized form, articulates a series of imaginaries about what a life worth living is. The dollar has catalyzed national models and projects. The dollar is a part of the daily experience of large portions of the population. And, when uncertainty grows, the dollar stabilizes.


María Inés Fernández Álvarez and Florencia Pacifico

The notions of precarity and care have become increasingly central in academic debate. Although both notions have a history dating back to the 1970s, the debates over them have undoubtedly been renewed since the world economic crisis that emerged in 2008. Both concepts have been subject to various reviews according to different disciplinary views and contexts of knowledge production. However, it is possible to identify some points in common across the different lines of analysis that come into play in both cases. From a social and historically situated perspective, the understanding of precarity as an experience that goes beyond what is strictly labor-related has made it possible to bring visibility to the living conditions of a large sector of the population worldwide. By putting on hold views of work based on a formal/informal dichotomy, attention to non-European realities has opened the way to questions and reflections that have led to a rethinking of the ways in which work and the economy are understood, and to consideration of the ways in which individual and collective strategies are generated for the reproduction of life under unwaged and even non-commodified forms of labor. The concept of care, particularly as developed by feminist economics, has also aimed to problematize economic systems which are centered on a self-sufficient ideal subject who meets their vital needs only through the market, and which evidence hierarchies of gender and class that come into play in the valorization and distribution of work. In Latin America, the recent development of a series of unionization and mobilization processes led by workers from the popular economy has meant a revisiting of the debates about the various forms of reproduction of life in populations structurally excluded from wage labor. In recent years, in Argentina in particular, a series of collective organization processes led by unwaged workers has taken place with the aim of claiming rights and improving living conditions for sectors of the population defined as part of the popular economy. The ethnographic analysis of these experiences sheds light on the intersection between precarity and care, contributing to broader questions about ways of making a living and producing well-being in contexts of structural inequality and exclusion from the formal labor market. The dynamics of organization produced by the popular economy entail the implementation of collective forms of care and reproduction of life that stretch the limits of the Fordist model of welfare provision anchored in the labor market and in the nuclear family, thus renewing debates around the ways in which processes of class struggle are configured.