CfP: Biocapitalist and precarious futures? Young people and the future of work

University of Helsinki, Unioninkatu 35 (U35), seminar room 113

Welcome to the open research seminar “Biocapitalist or precarious futures? Young people and the future of work” at the University of Helsinki. The seminar will open with a with a keynote lecture by senior researcher David Farrugia (University of Newcastle, Australia).

The labour markets are undergoing significant transformation: the rise of knowledge and immaterial economies, the disappearance of mid-level skilled jobs, the growth of the low-paying, urban service sector, digitalization and automatization, as well as the emergence of the gig economy. While future work is said to demand new skills and mobilization of whole selves for ‘employability’, others claim that we will face a jobless society as automatization replaces many jobs and people are left with precarious jobs. All these transformations have significant meaning for young people’s futures in working life.

The open research seminar invites researchers to discuss these themes. The seminar welcomes presentations which analyse young people in and out of labour markets. The papers can deal for example with working conditions, labour market positions and young people’s experiences of working life, or how work and workers are governed and worker-subjectivities produce. We also welcome presentations dealing with precarization and insecurities. Moreover, we welcome presentations which deal analyse the margins of working life, e,g. unemployment, burn-out, informal economies or young people’s shifting perceptions of work.

Preliminary programme

9–9.30 Coffee
9.30–10.30 Key note lecture and discussion / David Farrugia: Youth, Class and the Post-Fordist Work Ethic: The Cultivation of the Working Self
10.30.-10.45 Break
10.45–12.15 Paper presentations
12.15-13.00 Lunch (at own expense)
13.15-14.45 Paper presentations

Call for papers

Please send an extended abstract (1-2 pages) by 12.10.2019 to The participants will present their work, followed by comments from an appointed opponent and general discussion.

The seminar is arranged jointly by the Finnish Youth Research Network, Childhood and Youth Studies Network at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki and the project All-Youth – All youth want to rule their world at Tampere University.

Key note by Dr David Farrugia, University of Newcastle, Australia:

Youth, Class and the Post-Fordist Work Ethic: The Cultivation of the Working Self


In this presentation I explore the formation of young people as workers through the notion of the post-Fordist work ethic, and explore how classed subjectivities are produced through the practices that young people use to cultivate identities as workers. For Kathi Weeks, the ‘post-Fordist work ethic’ describes an intensification of the ‘subjectification function’ of work under capitalism, in which contemporary workers are encouraged to approach work as a realm of self-realisation, and in which the construction of the self has become synonymous with processes of capitalist valorisation. In this context, the presentation explores how young people understand the capacity for economic productivity as a dimension of their subjectivities, and explores how class shapes young people’s understanding of the relationship between work and the rest of life. Drawing on a project examining young people’s relationship with work in Australia, the presentation describes a distinction between middle-class ‘subjects of passion’ and working-class ‘subjects of achievement’ each of which represent ideal-typical modes of classed subjectivity with specific definitions of productivity and self-realisation. These subjectivities are materialized in class-specific practices designed to cultivate the self as a subject of value to the labour force that themselves reflect the ideological history of work in different periods of capitalism. In general therefore, the presentation shows how the formation of classed subjectivities amongst young people are connected to shifts in the disciplinary requirements of post-Fordist work, especially the incitement to self-realisation through the creation of a productive labouring self.


David Farrugia is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Newcastle. His research focuses on youth, labour and identity, including regional youth unemployment and young people in the immaterial economy. His current projects examine youth, affective labour and value in the night time economy, the formation of young people as workers in regions of high youth unemployment, and the immaterial labour of live game streaming on His most publications include Spaces of Youth: Work, Citizenship and Culture in a Global Context, published by Routledge and recent publications in The Sociological Review and Current Sociology.