How can workers challenge the contemporary organizing of work and respond to the challenges of the Anthropocene?

The notion of the Anthropocene conveys an agreement among scientists that we have entered a new epoch, during which human activities have remarkable impacts on ecosystems. A rapid climate change combined with the fragmentation of species is predicted to result in mass extinctions, possibly including the human species, and the collapse of the ecosystem. In this chapter, the Authors tackle this broad issue by focusing on work in order to imagine changes in the social and economic patterns that reproduce the Anthropocene The key question is: how can workers challenge the contemporary organizing of work and respond to the challenges of the Anthropocene? Firstly, it should be noted that this our period is marked by a deep, a perhaps unsolvable, contradiction: it is feared that the necessity to create paid work for an increasing number of humans becomes ecologically impossible under the current mode of production, which is based on an unsustainable use of fossil fuels and other natural resources. The fact that people need to earn a living through waged work creates a need to generate economic growth since a lack of growth in the contemporary economic models leads to unemployment, which is considered socially and politically unsustainable. The problem is exacerbated by technological progress contributing to increasing productivity of work, combined with global market policies emphasizing deregulation and the flexibilization of labor markets. These trends result in the decreasing security of paid work. Instead of developing new kinds of socio-ecological policies that would contribute to long-term global social and ecological justice, under the contemporary political doctrine the focus is on sustaining economic growth to stimulate employment and job creation at the national level. Hence, there is a call to reorganize work and work systems at various levels, ranging from global labor market policy regulations to the way we understand work. As a conclusion, to respond to the challenges of the Anthropocene, we need to understand the relationships between changes in the organization of work and changes in human-capital-nature relationships. Self-evidently, to be able to rethink human-nature relationships as an employee, one must have a job or resources for self-employment. People without a job have fewer possibilities for such agency unless they create a sense of collective agency as unemployed. Yet, the sense of agency of self-employed or un(der)employed people has not been encouraged in the contemporary political doctrine. Potential worker agency, i.e. the potential to “rework” or resist the prevailing human-nature relations, is hindered if narrow employee group interests are advanced without the awareness of collective labor interest. Thus, the relevant issue remains: how to support the emergence of worker agency, consisting of labor and employee agency, in relation to employment and un(der)employment? The feeling of worker agency and the reflections of the self-employed or un(der)employed may increase the transformative power of work. In comparison to the networks that exist to discuss global trade and finances, there seems to be a lack of global networks for such discussions on worker agency. However, the notion of the Anthropocene may enable a creation of such trans-local networks, reflections on worker agency and the global peaceful coexistence of capital and workers on planet Earth.