CRWDP Early Career Researcher
A number of early career researchers have been part of the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP). Our early career researchers have prospered from the learning opportunities and funding provided by our Centre and are making important contributions to knowledge and practice. Many CRWDP early career researchers have gone on to higher education and reputable research positions. We are pleased to highlight and feature their work, accomplishments and visions for the future.
Meet CRWDP early career researcher Rodrigo Finkelstein, PhD Candidate!
1. What is your educational background?
I hold a BA in Communication Sciences from Universidad Mayor, Chile, and a MA in Mass Communication Research from the University of Colorado at Boulder, United States.
2. What has been your career experience to date? Provide highlights of research undertaken, positions held, activities undertaken and areas of interest that you have been involved in during and following your time with CRWDP.
I was introduced to CRWDP as a student fellow in 2015. I have had meetings with partners/stakeholders – e.g., Lynn Carter, BC Federation of Labour – provincial forums – e.g., BC Injured Workers’ Forum – and countless BC cluster working meetings – e.g., CRWDP Seed Grant Meetings, consultations on Draft Pan-Canadian Strategy. I completed a literature review on vocational rehabilitation among injured workers to develop a research grant suitable for submission to the Canadian Institutes for Health Research under the supervision of Dr. Mieke Koehoorn, UBC Professor and BC Leader of CRWDP. I have attended international conferences acknowledging the CRWDP – e.g. Havana, Cuba; Santiago, Chile –, international invited lectures – e.g., Diego Portales University, Chile - and international meetings with WCBs – e.g., Meeting with the Chilean Safety Association. During my time as a CRWDP student fellow, I have published four peer-reviewed articles on disability and my first book in Spanish. My book, peer-reviewed and published by Editorial Universitaria from the University of Chile, critiques the dominant positivist approach to control labour risks based on information derived from sensory experience - Riesgos laborales: una visión cultural [Labour risks: A cultural view].
3. How has being part of the broader CRWDP research community supported and enhanced your work and success?
Being part of the CRWDP community has been key to the understanding of WCSs at a structural level, that is, as information-intensive agencies that allocate benefits on the basis of recording, processing and commodifying lost labour power in class societies. After 10 years of work experience at the Chilean Safety Association, a private WCB, I came to the erroneous conclusion that the main drawback was due to their private ownership and commercial orientation. Once in Canada and after learning from the Canadian public model, where WCBs are state owned and do not have a commercial alignment, I realized that the problem was not about ownership – public/private – but due to WCSs economic process of exchange, that is, commodifying lost labour power in a business relationship. Thanks to my experience at the CRWDP, I was able to see beyond the false public/private dichotomy. I arrived to the structural conclusion that the misallocation of benefits, the underrepresentation of injuries and the quantitative misinformation of work injuries are the product of the internal contradiction of lost labour power as a use value and an exchange value. Being part of the CRWDP lead me to my main academic finding: private and public WCBs are structurally destined to produce surplus lost value, namely, unpaid lost labour or unpaid medical and wage-replacement benefits.
4. In what ways do you envision your work improving society or reaching people?
As a Marxist scholar, concerned with making my academic research practical, I envision my work influencing the abolition of WCSs. I promote the transition of WCSs as information-intensive modes of compensation towards information-intensive modes of risk prevention and health. Rather than recording and processing quantitative risk information in the form of rates – e.g., injury rates, working days lost, fatality rates, impairment rates – to allocate medical and wage-replacement benefits and payments among workers and employers, I advance a foundational shift towards the decommodification of injury information for the benefit of workers’ health and safety. Instead of recording and processing quantitative information for exchange purposes I promote the production of qualitative information for the optimal allocation of preventive resources.
5. What are your plans/goals for the longer term?
My future scholarly work includes a book project based on my doctoral dissertation. Titled “Injury Information at Work: The Exchange and Distribution of Lost Labour Power”, this book periodizes and locates the origins of injury information in the midst of an historical rupture, one that took place across almost the entire globe: the discontinuous transition of a litigation-based mode of compensation to an information-intensive mode of compensation – i.e., WCSs. Fundamentally, what I have to examine in this book is injury information as the essence of an information-intensive mode of compensation and the specific capitalist relations and forms of intercourse that correspond to it. Drawing from historical materialism, I claim there is no injury information in general but only particular injury information based on specific relations arising from the historical capitalist mode of production. Workplace injury information is grounded in private property, competitive markets, wage labour, labour power, the commodity form, and money, among other relations. Capitalist relations are an integral part of injury information, which, articulated as social wholes, have no meaning except as a function of the capitalist mode of production. This book abolishes the independence, universality and neutrality of injury information and highlights the particular ways in which it is conditioned by specific capitalist relations. It historicizes, reabstracts and reconstructs injury information as a social relation based on (a) its ties to its origins and development in the nineteenth century, (b) its ties to the particular moments of its process, and (c) its ties with the present capitalist mode of production. The central argument can be stated as follows: grounded in the capitalist mode of production, injury information at work constitutes an historical social relation that, by taking the semblance of inductive indicators, conceals specific capitalist relations that bring about the exchange and distribution of lost labour power among capitalists and wage labourers.