Converting Industrial Spaces into Post-Industrial Livelihoods

Andrew Ross’ Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times looks at the global workplace and finds an emerging pattern of labor instability. Ross examines case studies of workers in all realms of work from the emerging creative class of high wage professionals to the multitude of temporary, migrant, or low-wage workers. Ross develops the concept of precarious livelihoods to nea-infographics-economic-valuedescribe the new world of work and life. Ross also looks at developed nations—comparing creative industry policies of the U.S., U.K. and European Union as well as developing countries by examining the transformation of China’s labor market.

The concept I found most fascinating in the book was Ross’ challenge of sustainability within the job
market and how we should be looking into “green jobs” which creates restorative alliances between labor advocates and environmentalists since job outsourcing is often linked to cheap labor and it often has devastating effects on the environment.

Unstable work has become the new norm. “The kind of development embraced by policymakers seems guaranteed merely to elevate this traditionally unstable work profile into an inspirational model for youth looking to make an adventure out of their entry into the contingent labor force” (17). Labor is marketed to youths as an adventure in instability when in reality it is detrimental to out futures in the infographic labor productivitylabor force.

This week I was thinking about my post a few weeks ago about neo-bohemia and the transformation of spaces within a city. So after reading Ross I was thinking about my own community and how the physical spaces are impacted significantly through outsourcing of jobs to more industrial areas with a cheaper labor force.

At one time factory jobs were stable jobs as we learned in Richard Lloyd’s Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Post Industrial City. “If the creative city is a liberal plot, it is a far cry from the liberal city of the postwar economy, which relied on federal block grants to oversee the basic welfare of its citizens. With budgets cut to the bone, and the citizenry increasingly cut off from institutional protections, U.S. urban policymakers have all but embraced the accepted neoliberal wisdom that self-sufficient entrepreneurial activity is the best, if not the most just, stimulant to growth” (40). Fordism describes the system of mass production where the goal was to pay workers a good wage while also making his automobiles affordable for his workers to purchase. Factories were also essential to towns. Every major city town relied heavily on the factory within the town to provide employment. The reality is that worker’s importance has been forgotten within the labor force. The number one priority is profit not the people who are necessary in achieving that profit.

West Rindge, NH Railroad Station

West Rindge, NH Railroad Station

This week I was really fascinated with the concept of space. What happens to the space within a town or city when the factory work is outsourced? I was also thinking about the class discussion about Richard Lloyd’s Neo Bohemia and how a lot of the factory spaces have been converted into other forms of sustainable living either through housing or shopping centers to impact a local economy even though the factory that once existed is no longer around.

In my town the old railroad tracks that physically represent industrialization have been converted into a

Rail Trail Jaffrey, NH

Rail Trail Jaffrey, NH

trail which expands from Jaffrey, NH through Rindge, NH to Winchendon, MA. The Cheshire Railroad was an early carrier established during the 1840s and was incorporated in 1848 as a branch of the Fitchburg railroad which was a part of the Boston and Maine railroad network and opened in 1871. The railroad shut down in in the early 1970s.

The rail trail is known as the Monadnock Branch Rail Trail. The trail is over 7 miles long. People are able to do a variety of activities from walking, running, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing.

Another important building in Jaffrey, NH is the Jaffrey Mills which are a historical mill complex at 41 Main Street, in the central business district. The mill consists of primarily brick buildings flanking the Contoocook River just north of Main Street. The buildings were built in 1868

Jaffrey Mill Postcard

Jaffrey Mill Postcard

and closed in 1967. When the mill was in operation it was the largest employer in the town of Jaffrey. Cotton textiles were produced in the mill. Great Bridge Properties purchased the vacant mill building on the West side of the river in January 2007 and officially opened as low-income apartments in the fall of 2007.

Ross also discusses the creative class and where they fit into the global workforce. The problem with the creative class is that they seem to place themselves above the

Jaffrey Mills

Jaffrey Mills

temporary, migrant or low-wage worker when in reality if you’re not at the top of the creative class and you have created a successful business or product then everyone else basically is a blue-collar worker within the class. “The process of outsourcing, moreover, depends on an implicit understanding that the skills and every other facet of the work being migrated are the property of the employer” (174). You can create creative work, but if you don’t own your own work then what’s the point? I feel like if you don’t have ownership of the work it becomes very difficult to have autonomy within the workforce. This instability within the workforce places everyone who is a laborer at the bottom, but those few who retain power are at the top. I find it interesting that you can consider yourself a part of the creative class, but in reality you’ll always be a laborer in one respect or another.

I chose two examples of the conversion of the physical spaces into something new and provided housing and sustainability within Jaffrey, NH. I also chose these two concepts because they deal with a

Interior Jaffrey Mill Apartments

Interior Jaffrey Mill Apartments

component of Ross’ term “livelihood” and living and leisure are a component of a laborers livelihood. Plus they both deal with the concept of conversion and how through this conversion we can change the way we view these spaces as environmental spaces and sustainable housing. If we can combine sustainable housing and create a sustainable leisure environment out of previous industrial staples then why can’t we do the same with labor? Ross discussing Richard Florida, “Urban fortunes, he argued, depend on the ability to attract and retain the creative talents whose capacity to innovate is increasingly vital to economic development.” If we don’t have a sustainable workforce then three-quarters of the global world doesn’t have an economic future.

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