Spaces of Labour in Moments of Urban Populism

Funder: SSHRC Insight Grant

Principal Investigator: Steven Tufts (Associate Professor, Geography)

Co-Investigators:
Ian MacDonald (Assistant Professor, Université de Montréal)
Mark P. Thomas (Associate Professor, Sociology, York University)

Description:
In the years following the financial crisis of 2008, labour movements have been placed largely on the defensive as employers found opportunity to press for concessionary demands and governments embarked on neoliberal 'austerity' programs to reduce expenditures and instill labour discipline. At the same time, populist discourses and movements have arisen on both the right and left of the political spectrum in the wake of both a widespread sense of popular disenchantment with political and economic elites and concerns over rising inequality. In this context, populism has both given legitimacy to austerity measures and served as a direct challenge to austerity.

These processes come together in urban spaces, as both austerity and populism have become emergent political forces in major urban centres in the years following the financial crisis. Set in the context of urban North America, this research explores these spaces of labour in moments of urban populism. Specifically, we ask the question: how does the rise of austerity and populism create both new challenges and new opportunities for labour movements in urban spaces Using a socio-geographic theoretical framework, and through case study research set in Toronto, New York, Quebec, and Seattle – two large and two mid-size North American cities -- this project examines the interconnections between austerity as a political project that aims to reduce government expenditures, the changing configurations of urban labour markets and labour movements, and the rise of new urban populisms. The project will contribute to public discourse about the rise of populism, transformations within labour movements, and economic strategies in urban spaces.