Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina: Contesting Neo-liberalism by Occupying Companies,
Creating Cooperatives, and Recuperating Autogestión
By Marcelo Vieta
Brill Academic Publishers: Hardcover available October 24, 2019 with a 2020 publication date
ISBN: 978-90-04-26895-1 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004268951
Haymarket Books: Soft-cover available January 15, 2021 with a 2020 publication date
Award for Workers' Self-Management in Argentina
~ Marcelo Vieta’s 2-minute video acceptance of the Honourable Mention
and a brief overview of the book
In Journal of Co-operative Studies (by Alex Bird, Nov. 2022)
In Journal of Labor and Society (in review essay “The New Abolotionists”
together with new books by David Ellerman and A. Benanav) (Aug. 2022)
In Socialism & Democracy (by Katherine Sobering, Mar. 2022)
In Ownership Matters (by Elias Crim, Dec. 2021)
In British Journal of Industrial Relations (by Jerome Warren, Mar. 2021)
In British Journal of Industrial Relations (by Catherine Spellman, Feb. 2021)
In Marx & Philosophy Review of Books (by Jerome Warren, Feb. 2021)
In CoopNews (by Anca Voinea, Jun. 2020)
Interviews, Presentations, Book Launches
Keynote by Marcelo Vieta: Workers’ self-management in Argentina: Contesting neo-liberalism by occupying, creating co-operatives, and recuperating autogestión. Keynote lecture in honour of the book, delivered at the From Cooperativism to Commoning: Historical and Contemporary Forms of the Institutions of the Commons international conference. University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland (Nov. 19, 2020).
Book launch: Workers’ self-management in Argentina: Contesting neo-liberalism by occupying, creating co-operatives, and recuperating autogestión. Launch of book at “Author Meets Critics” session. Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics annual conference, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam (Jul. 21, 2020).
Keynote by Marcelo Vieta: Workers saving jobs and businesses in times of crisis: Lessons from Italy’s worker buyouts and Argentina’s worker-recuperated companies. Keynote lecture delivered at the Workers’ Buy-Out Conference. Aktion ./. Arbeitsunrecht (Action Against Labour Injustice), Berlin, Germany (Jun. 20, 2020).
Book launch: Workers taking over companies and converting them to co-operatives in Argentina: Lessons for economic justice and the social and solidarity economy. Interdisciplinary panel and talk in honour of my book, Workers’ self-management in Argentina, at the Association of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research annual conference and Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Western University, London, Ontario, Canada (Jun. 4).
Book launch: Lessons from Argentina’s worker-recuperated enterprises: Co-operatives in times of crisis. Webinar delivered by invitation at the St. Mary’s University’s International Centre for Co-operative Management’s “Special Topics” series to launch the book Workers’ self-management in Argentina: Contesting neo-liberalism by occupying, creating co-operatives, and recuperating autogestión (May 27, 2020).
Marcelo Vieta interviewed on Each for All radio show (Co-op Radio) (May 11, 2020)
Endorsements and Praise
Cooperative enterprises, workers’ self-management and new forms of industrial democracy— these are the stirring themes animating Marcelo Vieta’s original and exciting book. Using a stunning set of interviews, buttressed by historical investigation and deep theoretical inquiry, Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina illuminates movements of occupation, recuperation and autogestión in Argentina in recent years. There is virtually nothing like this book when it comes to the study of lived practices of workers’ control today. Everyone searching for alternatives to neoliberalism and the domination of labor will relish this powerful and important work.
~ David McNally is Cullen Distinguished Professor of History and Business, University of Houston. He is the author of Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism, and the Marxist Critique (Verso, 1992) and Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance (PM Press, 2010).
This book is a tremendous gift. A must read for scholars, activists and all who want to learn how to retake our lives and create something new. Within these pages Vieta has detailed the history of class struggle in Argentina, bringing us to this historical moment, grounded in a new conceptualization of autogestión. Workers taking back – recuperating – their sense of worth and dignity though directly democratic workplace recuperations. Distinct from occupations, making demands on bosses and states, in recuperations workers re-claim what is theirs/ours. Vieta’s lens offers a unique insider/outsider perspective, as an Argentine scholar based in Canada. His methodological approach, also innovative, combines global ethnography, history, political science, economics and sociology. Most of all, in Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina, Vieta shows, by way of extended examples, that people can self-organize their work and life, in ways that are horizontal, effective and affective.
~ Marina Sitrin is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is the author of Everyday Revolutions: Horizontalism and Autonomy in Argentina (Zed Books, 2012) and They Can’t Represent Us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy, co-authored with Dario Azzellini (Verso Press, 2014).
In Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina, Marcelo Vieta homes in on the emergence and consolidation of Argentina’s empresas recuperadas por sus trabajadores (worker-recuperated enterprises or ERTs, also known as worker-recovered companies or WRCs in English), a workers’ occupy, company recuperation, worker co-op, and self-management movement that surged at the turn-of-the-millennium in the thick of the country’s neo-liberal crisis. Since then, around 400 companies have been taken over and converted to cooperatives by almost 16,000 workers. Grounded in class-struggle Marxism and a critical sociology of work, the book situates the ERT/WRC movement in Argentina’s long tradition of working-class activism and the broader history of workers’ responses to capitalist crisis. Beginning with the voices of the movement’s protagonists, Vieta ultimately develops a compelling social theory of autogestión – a politically prefigurative and ethically infused notion of workers’ self-management that unleashes radical social change for work organisations, surrounding communities, and beyond.
Book cover illustrated by the painting Miasto Fabryczne (Factory Town) by Polish avante-garde painter Leon Chwistek
More Endorsements and Praise
In Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina, Marcelo Vieta provides the most comprehensive account to date of worker recuperated enterprises, former capitalist workplaces that were occupied by their workers and reinvented as cooperatives. Based on nearly two decades of research, Vieta details the emergence, experience, and consolidation of these businesses across Argentina, offering not only rich empirical description, but also a compelling theoretical lens to understand cooperative self-determination and self-management. Blending case studies with an analysis of trends and common experiences, Vieta takes readers into the social world of people who transformed themselves from managed employees to self-managed workers, offering an up-close look at how they have socialized production, challenged private property, blurred the boundaries between work and community, and experienced subjective transformations in the process.
~ Katherine Sobering is Assistant Professor of Sociology and faculty affiliate in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Texas. She is the co-author of The Ambivalent State: Police-Criminal Collusion at the Urban Margins (Oxford University Press, 2019) and the soon-to-be-published The People’s Hotel: Working for Justice in Argentina (Duke University Press).
[T]his book...is of profound relevance to the political-economic conditions [of the pandemic] which we have suddenly entered, conditions marked by widespread business closures and soaring unemployment. ... Among the many qualities of Vieta’s book that makes it an important engagement with the political economy of the working class is its refusal to romanticize. For example, he sustains a critical analysis of the ways in which co-operatives, while containing radical elements, remain constrained within, or disciplined by, a capitalist system. ... Even so, while privileging the voices of workers themselves, Vieta convincingly argues for a reading of the ERTs as a prefigurative force, an instantiation of workers’ capacity to wrest control of production, to organize our work lives collectively, to disrupt the labour-capital relation, and to reconnect production to the wider communities in which production is embedded. Vieta shows what ERT protagonists recuperate through autogestión: their labour power, their surplus, and, vitally, their dignity and creativity. As an argument for workers’ potential, under specific social conditions, to generate radically alternative arrangements of work and life—amid deep capitalist crisis in Argentina—this book’s importance at the present conjuncture is difficult to overstate: it shows, through example, what the working class can do to rethink and remake relations of production in the face of profound capitalist crisis. Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina is rich in insights, warnings, and inspiration for creating non-capitalist futures, or a labour commons.
~ Greig de Peuter is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University. He is the co-author of New Media Unions: Organizing Digital Journalists (Routledge, 2020) and Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games (University of Minnesota Press, 2009).
Marcelo Vieta’s Workers’ Self-Management in Argentina is one of the most important books on contemporary labour and democracy. The volume masterfully revisits and extends theory on autogestión (loosely translated as self-management in English) and places it in richly detailed historical, economic, and social contexts. The book employs three in-depth case studies of “worker recuperated” firms in today’s Argentina and at the same time beautifully integrates those with an analysis of work and economy in Argentina especially over the past two decades. The comparisons of lessons from the experiences of workers in those firms for other national contexts gives the analysis an expansiveness seldom found in case-based studies of worklife and labour arrangements. Vieta’s longitudinal study and insightful commentary provide must reading for anyone interested in the intricacies of and possibilities for democratic revival from the shop floor and board rooms to communities and the global economy.
~ George Cheney is Professor of Communication, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He is the author of Values at Work:Employee Participation Meets Market Pressure at Mondragon (Cornell University Press, 2002) and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization (Routledge, 2014).
Marcelo Vieta’s book ranges far beyond the bounds of its Argentine analysis. It is thoroughly researched and grounded in “class-struggle Marxist” theory and reflects a prolonged and deep understanding of and commitment to global working-class enterprise autonomy struggles. In this Vieta provides a powerful and meaningful critique and alternative to neo-liberal capitalism.
~ Peter Ranis is Professor Emeritus in Political Science, Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is the author of Cooperatives Confronting Capitalism: Challenging the Neo-liberal Economy (Zed Books, 2016) and Argentine Workers: Peronism and Contemporary Class Consciousness (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992).
I was consistently impressed by Vieta’s impeccable scholarship and deeply-thought argumentation. Theoretically, this work is oriented around the perspective of class-struggle Marxism, but is also informed by a deep knowledge of the history and practices of trades unionism, cooperativism, and social and solidarity economics in Argentina, Latin America and internationally. The work situates empresas recuperadas (ERTs) within the history of the Argentine class-composition and workers movements. It shows how the ERT practice of “occupy, resist, produce” generated a series of “radical social innovations” affecting economic activities, political formations and trans-individual subject formation. From this study Vieta draws important conclusions about the circumstances in which the potential for self-directed worker activities is actualized in ways that point beyond the existing system of production relations. I want to reiterate how impressed I am by this work. It is a major contribution to scholarship on the global worker of the twenty first century.
~ Nick Dyer-Witheford is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at University of Western Ontario. He is the author of Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism (University of Illinois, 1999) and Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex (Pluto Press, 2015).
About the Author
Marcelo Vieta is Associate Professor in the Program in Adult Education and Community Development in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). Vieta’s research, teaching, and activist interests are in workplace and organizational learning and social change; the sociology of work; social and solidarity economy initiatives; critical community development; the worldwide cooperative movement, with a focus on worker cooperatives; worker- and community-recuperated enterprises (formerly capitalist firms or public-sector interests that are converted to workers' or community self-management); critical theory; and the philosophy of technology.