If recent forecasts are to be believed, a crisis is looming governed by the increasing contradiction between the forces and relations of production: automation will determine a new social order either within capitalism or beyond it. Will the result be utopian or dystopian (and perhaps it is a mistake to anticipate a benevolent, let alone socialist, ‘postcapitalism’)? Such developments would generate reconfigurations and reconceptualizations of the relations between work, leisure and culture. This conference will focus on these relations as they are currently developing and as they might do in the future. It will ask:

  • how has culture contributed to the critique of work – or how might it?
  • what kinds of future are currently anticipated within cultural production, and to what extent are our political imaginaries influenced by them?
  • how is technology reconfiguring cultural forms and relations (e.g. between producers and consumers)?
  • does automation necessarily threaten an ecologically catastrophic future based on still greater productivity, and what potential is there for a non-consumerist culture?
  • what does cultural production have to tell us about the contemporary state of the work ethic and what norms or moralities might lie beyond it?
  • what contributions might subcultural formations make to the larger critique of work-and-leisure?


Contact organisers David Alderson (david.alderson@manchester.ac.uk) and Phil O’Brien (philip.obrien@manchester.ac.uk)


Conference Registration

Please register for the conference using the payment options below and bring the confirmation email with you as proof of purchase. There is a set fee for the two days. This includes lunch and refreshments on both Friday and Saturday. The buffet lunch will be vegan and vegetarian. Please contact us with further dietary requirements.



Full Conference Fee

Waged and/or supported





Discounted Conference Fee

Unwaged and unsupported


We have a limited number of free places available for the Saturday. Primarily, these are for those outside of academia who wish to attend the Raymond Williams Reading Group on the Saturday morning. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Funded by the Raymond Williams Foundation, the bursaries also guarantee access to the conference for the full day. For further information and to enquire about securing a free place contact RWS Secretary Phil O’Brien on the email address above.

The Reading Group, scheduled for Saturday April 27th at 10.45am, will begin with a discussion of Williams’s introduction to Keywords, a copy of which can be accessed here. Those participating in the group may also wish to read in advance Elinor Taylor’s RWS blog from February on Keywords for Today by Colin MacCabe and Holly Yanacek. Both Williams’s book and this recent publication were also featured on Michael Rosen’s ‘Word of Mouth’ on Radio 4. And Sharon Clancy has written ‘The power of language in the age of austerity’ which explores discussions around key words in the twenty-first century.