Indeterminacy, Incipiency, and Attitudes: Materialist Oscillation in the 2012 Chicago Teachers’ Strike

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Teachers unions face a unique set of double-binds when defending their interests as workers and as advocates for students. In this essay, I argue that materialist approaches beginning from a concern for labor position deny potential to those laborers—teachers among them—who occupy an indeterminate relationship to capitalism. To describe these workers’ potential for agency, this essay examines the oscillatory movement that occurs between the conceptions of labor position theorized by Ronald Walter Greene and Dana Cloud. In shifting between these positions, I argue, educators can cultivate an incipient potential that nimbly negotiates double-binds while exacerbating the contradictions of neoliberal reform. I advance this argument through an analysis of three oscillations in the Chicago teachers’ strike of 2012: between conceptions of labor as part of a general or restricted economy; between projects of demystifying and upholding meritocracy; and between competing spatial configurations of the school and society. During these oscillations, I assert, the Chicago Teachers Union's labor action and rhetoric maintained its coherence through the formation of an attitudinal unity experienced in the immanent coalescence of contradictory movements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-533
Number of pages25
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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