Kurzexposé zum Promotionsvorhaben von Dan Hawkins:
Bringing “Decent Work” into the Informal Economy:
A Case Study of State Policies in Venezuela & Colombia
The informalisation of work is rapidly becoming, particularly in the global South, the preeminent face of neoliberal globalisation. However, even with the numbers of “informal workers” rising ubiquitously, attempts at analysing and conceptualising such a process too often remain stuck in outdated models and conceptions where it is regarded as being either a regrettable carry-on of an archaic era, a temporal state of transition between employment in the formal economy, and/or a phenomenon perceived as being on the underbelly of the capitalist system (for critiques of such views, see: Castells 1996; Munck 2002; Nordstrom 2003). This thesis proposes to move beyond such stagnant conceptions, instead offering a theorisation of the process of informalisation in which its diverse manifestations can be conceptualised and linked to the complex structural change in labour force reproduction currently taking place in the global political economy. Furthermore, due to the state's concrete role as the social institution that broadly determines the extent to which work is either formal or informal, an attempt is made to analyse the manner in which state projects and policies implicitly impact upon and indeed are affected by the extent of informalisation within a country. In line with this objective, this thesis shall utilise a historical materialist theory of the internationalised state as a means of tracing the ways in which state reconfiguration is associated with conflicts between social forces, both within and outside the territorial confines of a nation, and how these conflicts are specifically bounded historically as well as being moulded by contingent events. What ways may informal workers either attain agency when dealing with state institutions or alternatively, be excluded from the predominant state projects and in what way may such practices affect the degree to which labour-based organisations (both traditional trade unions as well as non-traditional grass-roots organisations) can formulate practices aimed at mobilising and integrating informal workers into their movements? In an effort to confront such questions, the thesis adopts a comparative case-study of Colombia and Venezuela as a means of investigating the linkages informalisation has to both global labour force restructuring as well as its specific manifestations within two countries, which while being neighbours that share very similar historical experiences, have also displayed marked divergencies with regard to the present state models of both.