NEIL AGGETT LABOUR STUDIES UNIT (NALSU): Annual Neil Aggett Labour Studies Lecture, Rhodes University, South Africa
The event is in person and will also be live streamed online
SEMINAR & WEBINAR: 4PM, Wednesday, 2 November 2022
IN PERSON: Graham Hotel, 123 High Street, Makhanda / ONLINE: via Zoom (details below)
TOPIC & SPEAKER: Professor Eddie Webster, Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS), Wits, "Re-Casting the Power of Labour: Working in the Shadow of the Digital Age"
THE PAPER: There is a widespread view that labour, as a counter-hegemonic force, has come to an end. There is a lot going for these arguments; there is no question that there has been a decline of union membership and density in the Global North. But the problem with the pessimistic 'end of labour thesis' is that it reifies globalisation and the digital age, giving them a logic and coherence that they do not have. Most importantly, the pessimists present workers as victims. The result is that labour is seen as an actor without agency that cannot think of alternatives or imagine a future towards which labour can work. In this lecture, Professor Webster will draw on the power resources approach to examine the new forms of worker organisation emerging among large swathes of precarious and informal labour in Africa and South Africa. He will identify examples where workers on the margins are beginning to cross the divide between the protected and the unprotected, the established workers and those marginalised by liberalisation.
SPEAKER: Professor Emeritus Eddie Webster, public intellectual and prolific scholar, is Distinguished Research Professor at the Southern Centre of Inequality Studies (SCIS) and founder of the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP), at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Webster headed the Chris Hani Institute, helped establish the GLU (Global Labour University), and his decades of engagement with the labour movement include research, policy and workers' education. Author of nine books including the ground-breaking "Cast in a Racial Mould" and 130 academic articles, he has reshaped economic and industrial sociology, and mentored generations of unionists, students and academics. A winner of the American Sociological Association's best labour monograph award, and recipient of the Ela Bhatt Professorship, he was rated South Africa's top sociologist by the NRF. Webster hails from the Eastern Cape, starting his academic studies at Rhodes University, Makhanda, where he was also SRC President. He is Visiting Professor at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Rhodes, which awarded him a Honorary Doctorate in 2016 in recognition of his many accomplishments.
JOINING ONLINE: the event will be blended, with the Lecture held in person and live streamed via Zoom. Please register in advance for Zoom by going to:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining.
Some DATA available for people outside Rhodes. Apply mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org / 072 183 6632 in advance.
HOSTS: The Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU) hosts the Annual Neil Aggett Labour Studies Lecture as part of its programme of labour studies seminars and the annual Vuyisile Mini Workers School, in partnership with the Departments of Sociology & Industrial Sociology, and Economics & Economic History, at Rhodes University, South Africa, and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). Based in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, NALSU is engaged in policy, research and workers' education, has a democratic, non-sectarian, non-aligned and pluralist practice, and active relations with a range of advocacy, labour and research organisations. We draw strength from our location in a province where the legacy of apartheid and the cheap labour system, and post-apartheid contradictions, are keenly felt. We are named in honour of Dr Neil Hudson Aggett, a union organiser and medical doctor who died in 1982 in an apartheid jail after enduring brutality and torture.