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Informal Labor, Formal Politics, and Dignified Discontent in India
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    Informal Labor, Formal Politics, and Dignified Discontent in India
    • Online ISBN: 9781139198738
    • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139198738
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Book description

Since the 1980s, the world's governments have decreased state welfare and thus increased the number of unprotected 'informal' or 'precarious' workers. As a result, more and more workers do not receive secure wages or benefits from either employers or the state. This book offers a fresh and provocative look into the alternative social movements informal workers in India are launching. It also offers a unique analysis of the conditions under which these movements succeed or fail. Drawing from 300 interviews with informal workers, government officials and union leaders, Rina Agarwala argues that Indian informal workers are using their power as voters to demand welfare benefits from the state, rather than demanding traditional work benefits from employers. In addition, they are organizing at the neighborhood level, rather than the shop floor, and appealing to 'citizenship', rather than labor rights.

Reviews

'… this is a highly readable, well-researched, informative, important book. Agarwala shows careful, thorough methodological and conceptual thinking while responding to and building on a large body of scholarly research. Using considerable quantitative data and extensive interviews with government officials and scores of women working in the informal economy in three states (Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu), the author investigates and largely dismantles the notion that poor often-illiterate workers with no formal employer can organize as workers. Summing up: highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.'

G. M. Massey Source: Choice

'Rina Agarwala’s book is refreshingly different … It throws up new ideas about the informal economy through its bold analysis. The author’s background of political science and sociology helps raise the analysis above the mundane cost-benefit analysis framework. The most important aspect of the book is that it shows that though informal workers are the wretched of the earth, they are learning to raise their heads and fight for their dignity. It is definitely a very important contribution to the study of informal labour, and should be of interest to all social scientists.'

Sharit K. Bhowmik Source: Economic and Political Weekly

'Rina Agarwala’s exciting volume Informal Labor, Formal Politics, and Dignified Discontent in India presents itself to the reader as a tale of informal workers’ strategies to organize and attain welfare benefits from the Indian state in a context of rapid economic growth and of progressive increase in inequalities … Agarwala’s analysis is thus multifaceted, sophisticated and rich with insightful findings.'

Annalisa Murgia Source: American Journal of Sociology

'Who then speak for the IS workers and the growing number of casuals in the formal labor market? This is where the book of Rina Agarwala - Informal Labor, Formal Politics, and Dignified Discontent in India - comes in as a provocative piece of scholarship on the role of traditional unionism in today’s highly segmented labor market that is continuously churning under the pressures of globalization … Agarwala’s book challenges students and scholars of the labor movement to re-think state-labor relations.'

Rene E. Ofreneo Source: Asian Politics and Policy

'Agarwala’s work represents an important contribution to the literature in this area. Her analysis is extremely rich both theoretically and empirically … Advanced scholars interested in changes in the nature of work and the conditions of workers globally should pay attention to this book.'

Denise Benoit Scott Source: Gender and Society

'This study of informal workers in urban India comes at an ideal time as the country undergoes rapid economic and social change. In addition, the rich, qualitative evidence that Agarwala has carefully gleaned through semi-structured interviews and participant observation stands as a model for students of labor politics. Those interested in understanding the politics of labor, social welfare, and state-society relations in contemporary India will find this book immensely rewarding.'

Akshay Mangla Source: Industrial and Labor Relations Review

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