Taxi Professors: Academic Labour in Chile, a Critical-Practical Response to the Politics of Worker Identity

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Elisabeth Simbürger
Mike Neary


This paper discusses the organisation of academic labour as an expression of contemporary capitalism in Chile. The focus of our analysis is on so called ‘taxi professors’, hourly paid academics that carry out the majority of teaching at Chilean universities. Drawing on 23 qualitative interviews, we discuss the daily work routines of taxi professors, focussing on travel to work, gender, the labour process, academic freedom, self-management and the organisation of collective struggle among hourly paid workers. In contrast to the mainstream literature on academic identity, the discourses of  hourly paid academics are not shaped merely by their sense of ‘precarity’, their belonging to a disciplinary subject or professional expertise, but fundamentally by the alienating and exploitative conditions of work to which they are exposed. This understanding of hourly paid academic labour in terms of an alienated form of capitalist work will be linked to academic writing that suggests a critical-practical activity that seeks to counteract the sense of ‘helplessness’ reflected in the discourses about academic identity. The practical aspect of this activity is presented as the possibilities of platform co-operativism, expressed in this context as co-operative forms of higher education, grounded in a critical reading of Karl Marx’s labour theory of value where value rather than labour is the focus of critical analysis.

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