My friend Scott recently wrote an article in part about being on the job when the relationship foundations for collective activity aren’t there yet at work and when attempts to build them are slow, slow going. I want to riff a bit on some of it, things that it made me think about, drawing a few more lines between bits I’ve had on my mind and so on.

I suggested in an earlier post that we want to build-up existing social networks and then direct them toward purposes

but this requires a few things. Among them, one, that the networks exist and we know about them, two, that we have access to them, and three, that we can gain participation in them. Scott’s article is in part about what happens when one or more of those conditions don’t apply. Another way to put this is that it’s about what we do when we’re at a very low point in terms of trajectories of struggle.

Anyway. Scott and other friends and I have talked for a while about what we do and don’t orient toward and how we assess our efforts and we’ve often been like “we need different criteria to make those assessments.” I think that his recent article gets at this as well.

It seems to me that there are at least two contents to work. There’s the economic content – wages, exploitation – and there’s the associational content – relationships on the job, how the job relates to the rest of life. (I haven’t come back to this in a while but it’s about making a life rather than making a living, something I rambled about here – – and here – – and which was implied in the moral economy stuff here – Organizing is about the associational side, about using that against the economic side. That means the immediate perspective that guides what we do shouldn’t be economic but associational. Not “what will get us more money and other economic improvements” or “what will be most disruptive” etc but “what can we manage to do given current relationships and what will create improvements here in terms of the associational side of this workplace.” It strikes me that this cuts across responses to union structures and to management-provided structures like workplace committees. Both bore-from-within (always participate) and outside-and-against (never participate) are overly simplistic answers in part because they’re too static. This is probably obvious and itself overly simplistic, but: sometimes participate, based on what associational opportunities it seems to provide. Given where things are at, what will best place you (best improve your placing) in relation to other people in terms of respect and trust (which in some cases could mean simply, initially, what will provide the most contact and interaction), and provides the most opportunity to knit together a web of relationships that can serve as the basis for something more later. (by the way, something that undermines thing from an associational perspective is what I meant by an error of conduct