The (Un)Making of the Working Class in Karachi, 1980s -2010s
Mallick, Muhammad Ayyaz Ahsan
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This dissertation traces the evolution of working-class politics in Karachi (Pakistan) over the past four decades. I develop an integral and non-teleological approach to the study of class, state, and civil society by reconstructing the Marxist and postcolonial traditions, while also contributing to debates in human geography, development studies, sociology, and literary criticism. The dissertation demonstrates that the dialectic of the (un-)making of the working class is mediated by shifting modes of accumulation, dynamics of consent, coercion and trasformismo, and contours of the urban question. These shifts are theorised as two phases of passive revolution: the first from late 1970s through 1980s, and the second from late2000s onwards. I argue that the first phase had the deepest, longestlasting effects on the working class in Karachi. I demonstrate how the spatial and social faultlines that developed within the working class during this period facilitated pacification and ethnospatial populisms. I provide a detailed historical account of the decline of the labour movement by examining trade union archives and interviewing workers and labour organisers. Through participatory observation with construction workers, home-based women workers, and food transport workers, I develop new ways to understand how the proliferation of informality in the second phase of (neoliberal) passive revolution is lived in spaces of production and reproduction. Finally, I use oral history and novels to trace shifts in the spatial structure of feeling with growing ethnic enclavisation. Together, I demonstrate how the rhythms of workingclass politics in Karachi, and their enclosure within the circumscribed domains of subalternity, remain overdetermined by the social and organisational fragmentations of the first phase of passive revolution. In turn, I show that recurring crises of the ruling bloc, shifting articulations of the urban question, and contradictions within popular common sense offer openings for a renewed hegemonic praxis of the working class.