CeSCoS Lecture Series

Virus, Values, Work: Debates about the Future

Picture from Unsplash.com by Josh Hild

How are societies shaping the future of work? This is one of the pressing issues of our time. The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the world of work through layoffs, furlough schemes, work-from-home practices and the reorganization of care work obligations. The pandemic has also, once again, put eternal questions about the value of work and its distribution centre stage.

In this years’ lecture series, we will discuss how we (want to) work in different settings and configurations. We will debate how to achieve an equitable distribution of decent work and the value created through work. And, we will consider what the pandemic means for the long-term future of work.

This lecture series is organized by the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Solidarity (CeSCoS), as part of the IPW Lectures, an international lecture series of the Department for Political Science, University of Vienna.

(Past) Lectures in the summer semester 2022:

4 April 2022, 16:00 | online

Book talk: "The warehouse: workers and robots at Amazon"

Lecturer: Alessandro Delfanti (University of Toronto)

Chair: Gerda Falkner (EIF / IPW)


'Work hard, have fun, make history' proclaims the slogan on the walls of Amazon's warehouses. This cheerful message hides a reality of digital surveillance, aggressive anti-union tactics and disciplinary layoffs. Reminiscent of the tumult of early industrial capitalism, the hundreds of thousands of workers who help Amazon fulfil consumers' desire are part of an experiment in changing the way we all work. In his book, Alessandro Delfanti takes readers inside Amazon's warehouses to show how technological advancements and managerial techniques subdue the workers rather than empower them, as seen in the sensors that track workers' every movement around the floor and algorithmic systems that re-route orders to circumvent worker sabotage. He looks at new technologies including robotic arms trained by humans and augmented reality goggles, showing that their aim is to standardise, measure and discipline human work rather than replace it. Despite its innovation, Amazon will always need living labour's flexibility and low cost. And as the warehouse is increasingly automated, worker discontent increases. Striking under the banner 'we are not robots', employees have shown that they are acutely aware of such contradictions. The only question remains: how long will it be until Amazon's empire collapses?

4 May 2022, 17:00 | online

Social policy, universal basic income, and public health

Lecturer: Marcia Gibson (University of Glasgow)

Chair: Barbara Prainsack (IPW)


Basic income is proposed as a response to changes in the labour market arising from increasing employment insecurity, automation, and more recently the Covid-19 pandemic. It is argued that making payments to all citizens would result in a more equal society and has the potential to improve population health. However, basic income is inherently difficult to evaluate and there are many gaps in the existing evidence. This talk will consider what the available evidence can tell us about the potential effects of a universal basic income, and whether universal payments are likely to be more efficient or equitable than those targeted at people in need. Alternative approaches to welfare state reform will also be considered.

(Past) Lectures in the winter semester 2021/2022:

Recordings are available (see below)

10 November 2021, 16:00 | online

Bezahlte und unbezahlte Arbeit nach Covid-19: Geschlechterspezifische Verteilung von Zeit und Arbeit in und nach der Krise (in German)

VortragendeKatharina Mader (Arbeiterkammer Wien)
Moderation: Lukas Schlögl (CeSCoS)


Wie erging es Frauen und Männern in Österreich während den Ausgangsbeschränkungen durch COVID-19? Was bedeutet der Jobverlust oder der Umzug ins Home Office für die Verteilung von unbezahlter Arbeit? Welche psychischen Belastungen kamen dadurch zustande?  Und was würde es brauchen, um das Arbeiten von zuhause gerechter zu gestalten?

Die im Zuge der COVID-19-Pandemie erlassenen Ausgangsbeschränkungen boten die einmalige Gelegenheit den Effekt von Home-Office-Arrangements auf die Verteilung unbezahlter Arbeit in Haushalten zu untersuchen. Home Office wird häufig als Mechanismus beschrieben, der Frauen die Vereinbarkeit von Kinderbetreuung und Beruf erleichtert. In diesem Vortrag werden die Ergebnisse einer Studie vorgestellt und diskutiert, die für Österreich untersucht hat, ob, und in welchem Ausmaß, das der Fall ist. Zur Erhebung der relevanten Daten wurde eine Online-Befragung durchgeführt und untersucht, wie sich Home Office auf die Verteilung unbezahlter Arbeit zwischen Frauen und Männern auswirkt. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass es dringend einer Umverteilung unbezahlter Arbeit in den institutionellen Bereich, aber auch zwischen den Geschlechtern bedarf.

Link zur Aufzeichnung: bitte klicken Sie hier (Kenncode: p4w8X4.c)

19 January 2022, 17:00 | online

Discourses on the ‘Future of Work’: Three Empirical Studies

PanelistsLukas Schlögl (CeSCoS), Timo Seidl (EIF) & Paul Dunshirn (DigiGov)
Chair: Barbara Prainsack (CeSCoS)

*** in cooperation with the Research Platform Governance of Digital Practices (DigiGov) ***


Discourses on the “Future of Work” attract significant attention in the policy community and beyond. Who will pursue what kind of work in the future? What role will new technologies play in the workplace? Who will need to adapt their skills to a changing work environment? And what role should governments, businesses and trade unions play in the transformation of work? Discourses that address such questions and provide respective policy advice implicitly (re-)negotiate the value of work, norms about distribution and fairness, and the social order. This IPW lecture presents findings from three recent studies that analyse public discourse on the Future of Work, the actors involved in producing it, and the values underpinning it.

Recording of the lecturehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd6UmqXHeDE