Social Science for the C21st is designed and led by Academy of Finland Distinguished Professor Lisa Adkins. The research programme runs from 2015-19 and considers shifts in the economy-society relation in post-Fordist capitalism. It is concerned in particular with the complex process of economization, that is, with the process of the folding of the economy into society.
It takes as its focus employment activation, that is, measures that are designed to encourage the underemployed, the unemployed, the wageless and the jobless to become more active in their efforts to find work and/or improve their employability. It locates such activation measures as devices of economization.
In taking this approach Social Science for the C21st breaks with existing ways of understanding activation. These have located activation as a set of techniques which contribute either towards the formatting of the preferred risk-bearing, entrepreneurial subject of neo-liberalism or the provision of a cheap or free source of labour which buttresses the operations of deregulated and highly flexible labour markets.
Social Science for the C21st suggests that, while important, neither of these approaches comes to grips with how activation is fundamentally entangled in a reordering the economy-society relation. In particular they cannot help us understand how activation transforms unemployment into a highly eventful state, a transformation which in turn erodes distinctions between unemployment and employment, waged work and wagelessness, underemployment and full employment.Social Science for the C21st contends that activation is entangled in a broad scale restructuring of labour in which more and more activities outside of the formal labour process and labour market are qualified as economic.
In focusing on the shifting materiality of unemployment and joblessness, this programme is designed to contribute to a newly configured social science which is post-representational, post-constructionalist and committed to renewal of the empirical.
This research programme is funded by the Academy of Finland through its FiDiPro programme. Professor Lisa Adkins and Social Science for the C21st are hosted by the University of Tampere and the University of Turku.