The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy – Paolo Gerbaudo

The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy

Speaker: Paolo Gerbaudo

12th June, 4-6pm, G33 Education Building, University of Birmingham


From the Pirate Parties in Northern Europe to Podemos in Spain and the 5-Star Movement in Italy, from the movements behind Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in UK, to Jean-Luc Melenchon’s presidential bid in France, the last decade has witnessed the rise of a new blueprint for political organisation: the ‘digital party’.

These new political formations tap into the potential of social media, and use online participatory platforms to include the rank-and-file. Paolo Gerbaudo looks at the restructuring of political parties in the time of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and campaigning based on Big Data. Drawing on interviews with key political leaders and digital organisers, he argues that the digital party is very different from the class-based ‘mass party’ of the industrial era.

With new structures come worrying changes in political forms, such as the growth of power cliques and the need for centralised, charismatic leaders, the erosion of intermediary party layers and the loss of accountability. However, there is also a growth of strong unity at the centre and extreme flexibility at the margins, creating a promising template which could counter the social polarisation created by the Great Recession and the failures of liberal democracy.


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Automation, Changing Work, and New Ways of Struggle

Event co-hosted by CSE/Capital and Class Midlands and the Contemporary Philosophy of Technology Research Group

Automation, Changing Work, and New Ways of Struggle

Saturday 9 March, 3-5pm
Artefact, Birmingham

Register here.


Confirmed speakers:

Phoebe Moore (University of Leicester),

Petros Elia and Susana Benavides (United Voices of the World),

Saori Shibata (Leiden University)

The world of work is changing. We see rapid moves towards automation, quantified work, precarity, and zero-hour contracts. But at the same time we see new and different ways in which workplace struggle is conducted. This event provides an opportunity for those interested in these different changes – to the workplace and to resistance in the workplace – to come together and discuss recent research and to reflect on ongoing campaigns. The session will focus on:

  • research into the changing nature of the (digital) workplace by Phoebe Moore, leading international scholar of the political economy of technology and work;
  • a discussion from two of the leading trade union activists from the United Voices of the WorldPetros Elia and Susana Benavides, who recently won a major victory following dismissal for organising for a living wage campaign at Top Shop;
  • a discussion by Saori Shibata, lecturer in the political economy of Japan, of how the creation of precarious workers is being contested in the changing capitalist context of Japan.

There will plenty of opportunity for discussion, debate, and plotting the next moves in the struggle against capitalism.


Phoebe Moore is Associate Professor of Political Economy and Technology at the University of Leicester. Her research looks at the impact of technology on work from a critical perspective, looking at quantification through wearable tracking and algorithmic decision-making as a set of management techniques, and she recently carried out a prestigious Research Fellowship at the Weizenbaum Institute in Berlin where she focused on the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) within the workplace.

Petros Elia is originally from the UK, and lived in Caracas, Venezuela for 3 years. Upon his return to London, he met with Latin American communities, and saw institutional workplace abuse of migrants. In January 2014 he was a founder member of the United Voices of the World, which has quickly gained an international reputation as one of the most vibrant and militant campainging unions organising mainly migrant workers in London. Recent high profile campaigns have focused on Harrods, LSE and the Ministry of Justice.

Susana Benavides is originally from Ecuador, and moved to Spain after the 1998 banking crisis. When the 2008 crash unfolded, she moved again, this time to London, working as a Topshop cleaner until her unlawful dismissal for demanding a living wage with the support of her union, UVW. The case went to a tribunal in 2018, seeing the employer, Britannia, admit that they had unfairly dismissed her co-claimant (Carolina), whilst stubbornly not conceding the same in Susana’s case. Susana is a member of the UVW’s non-hierarchal Executive Committee and a key organiser in UVW’s ongoing campaigns.

Saori Shibata is lecturer in the political economy of Japan (Leiden University). Her resesarch focuses on the changing nature of capitalism within Japan, especially the different ways in which the move towards non-regular working patterns is being contested and challenged through new forms of workers’ resistance.


Robots on the frontline! In search of the authentic virtual public servant

Robots on the frontline! In search of the authentic virtual public servant

Speaker: Dr Stephen Jeffares

Wednesday 20th March 2019, 4.00pm – 5.30pm

LR7 Arts Building, University of Birmingham

Register for free here.


Abstract: For over two decades policy makers have sought to dismantle the infrastructure for face-to-face encounters, driven by pressures to reduce costs, offer convenience and attempts to maintain control. Amid the largescale introduction of contact centres and self-service websites the contribution of authentic human interaction has become devalued. At a time when relations between citizens and public servants are under strain, this talk argues the sustained efforts to design out possibilities of face to face public encounters serve only to further to distance citizen and state. Through a series of case examples the talk seeks to consider the possibility that the current and growing interest in Artificial Intelligence may well be reinstating long neglected discourses of human authenticity.

Bio: Stephen Jeffares is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Birmingham. His research documents how public servants experience and contribute to discourses of public service reform.

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