Artisans of the world, unite? Inter-sectoral and -national solidarity among independent workers


Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF)



Oktober 2022 bis September 2024

This research project curates a conversation among scholar-activists, social movement actors and advocates on potential epistemic bases for inter-sectoral and -national solidarity among independent workers and their movements. In contemporary diverse economies (Gibson-Graham 2008), autonomous and semi-autonomous labor abounds within and outside of capitalism, yet the concepts developed to underline its merits and potentials rarely travel across economic sectors. Here lies a significant advantage for capital in its attempts to organise and capture socio-political imaginaries vis-á-vis its alternatives. The integrative terms offered by theories of capitalism, in other words, are lacking for non-capitalism, imposing unnecessary disciplinary and representational boundaries for the rich empirical insights, organisational recipes and political tactics developed by non-exploitative labor formations everywhere.

To remedy this epistemic inequality, we need a common analytical language of non-exploitative labor. In order to provoke this discussion, I claim that self-directed workers in all sectors form part of a general class of labor - the artisanat (Thiemann 2022). As an antonym to the proletarian condition, and to dependency relations more generally, we analyse the artisan condition as the unfolding of labor processes in relative autonomy, providing livelihoods rather than jobs. Artisans aim at subsistence rather than profit or wage, and conceive of the means of production as patrimony rather than capital or assets. They form agglomerations (rather than accumulations) of property and rights, and rely on commons (rather than incorporation) to facilitate economies of scale. Shifts in class dynamics and degrees of exploitation are defined by accumulation and equilibration, respectively.