Random readings on society, politics and change – Jorge Carrillo
Claudio Sopranzetti – Based on ethnographic research conducted between 2009 and 2014, this article examines the discourse of freedom among motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok and the practices, both emancipatory and oppressive, that it supports and makes possible. I explore its central role in their self-construction as successful migrants, entrepreneurial subjects, and autonomous urban dwellers as well as its relations to capitalist restructuring and precarity in post-crisis Thailand. I show how freedom is becoming a way in which precarious workers — such as the drivers — consciously make-sense and make-do with political-economic, social, and conceptual shifts that are taking place around them. In this sense, this article explores the construction of consent in contemporary Thailand without falling in the trap of assigning false consciousness to the drivers or framing them as subjugated subjects. Rather, I locate the effectiveness of the discourse “itsaraphāp” precisely in its ability to connect, a word dear to Gramsci, pre-existing forms of exploitation, personal desires and aspirations, and a restructuring of the relations between capital and labor in contemporary Bangkok.
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