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The Precarious Workers Brigade, Training for Exploitation? Politicising Employability and Reclaiming Education

Journal of Aesthetics & Protest Press, 2017; 96pp; PDF free at www.tinyurl.com/peacenews2651 or printed copies £5 /£10 /£15 from Housmans Bookshop

ImageThe Precarious Workers Brigade (PWB) is a UK-based activist group of precarious workers in the culture and education sectors who highlight and expose exploitative labour practices. This manual is an information resource for educators teaching ‘employability’ and ‘work-based learning’. It also serves well as a resource for students and for people seeking their first job, internship or placement.

In her brief foreword, the Italian-American scholar, teacher, activist and Marxist-feminist Silvia Federici, reminds us that universities and other educational institutions are ever more concerned with the production of workers for the economy as opposed to the educational ideal of forming civic-minded, well-rounded, skilled individuals. Clearly structured and easy to follow, this is a well-written book with an attractive and functional design.

The first section details the progressive and radical legacies of work-based education that influence the PWB, such as the philosophy of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. Next is a chapter on teaching tools ranging from theatre workshops, to open letters, to free association. They include exercises for investigating internships. It ends with a chapter called ‘alternative economies’ which explains the function of, for example, workers’ co-operatives and basic income.

The book also includes statistics about internships, diversity and other aspects of the creative and cultural industries, and workshop ideas for alternative education and organising practices. It also details strategies and spaces, such as the Common House in London, which can help people trying to organise social action groups, coalitions and movements.

Training for Exploitation? will interest activists and educators already fighting against the neoliberal transformation of education. It may also motivate readers approaching the topic for the first time to think more critically about the exploitative labour and education practices which are unfortunately so widespread and therefore normalised in our society.