Dr Matthew Cole


Matthew is from the rust belt of New York State, though he has lived in the UK for nearly a decade now. His academic life began in Buffalo, New York, where he studied a variety of subjects in the humanities, focused primarily around the history of the Americas, gender theory, and continental philosophy. He was actively involved in student-labour organising with United Students Against Sweatshops. London was calling and Matthew studied for an MA in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University. After some years spent in independent study while working as a barista, he was accepted to the University of Leeds on a full studentship. Matthew completed his PhD at the University of Leeds in 2019. Titled "The Politics of Service Production: Experiences of Low-Waged Hospitality Work in London" it examined the relations between commodification, cooperation and conflict through the experiences of workers themselves. He is working on a number of articles developed from this research.

Matthew has published a book chapter in a major academic reference book on Marx, contributed to a number of reports for Autonomy (an independent think tank), and published book reviews in three and four-star journals. He regularly presents at major international conferences (SASE, ILPC and WES among others), gives talks at academic workshops (CERIC Big Ideas, The World Transformed, and at the University of Padua, Italy) and writes articles for popular magazines (Vice). Matthew is also a series editor for Zed books on the present and future of work. Matthew currently has a number of research articles in preparation for first submission to journals. One is providionally titled 'The Theft of Time and Money in Hospitality Work: A Typology and Analysis of Exploitation’. The other is titled ‘Value and the Labour Process: Implications for the Study of Work’.


Research interests

Matthew is interested in the history of labour process theory, labour organising in service industries, the political economy of work, and technological change at work.

His post-doctoral research concerns the dynamics of human and machine intelligence in navigating interactive service work. Automation is a classical theme in the study of work. However, much of the literature has regarded technology as an exogenous force, rather than as an endogenous process shaped by social relations. Matthew’s reserach aims to develop indices of the degree of human-machine cooperation and conflict in service work that had previously resisted automation. The recent rise in the use of artificial intelligence to augment intellectual labour in different industriespotentially represents a qualitative shift in human-machine relations such that they facilitate mutual learning and augmentation. Particularly interesting are the human-machine dynamics in work situations that normally require human creative, emotional or ethical decision-making capacities to draw out conflict and potential biases. We can address these phenomena with the following questions:

Does the introduction of intelligent automation to the labour process represent a qualitative shift in the nature of work and employment?

What can classical debates around deskilling and technological substitution tell us about the current wave of intelligent automation?

What are the dynamics of cooperation and conflict between human and artificial intelligence in service work that had previously resisted automation?


  • 2019 PhD: Work and Employment Relations, University of Leeds Business School
  • 2011 MA: Modern European Philosophy, Commendation, Kingston University
  • 2009 BA: American Studies and Political Science, Summa Cum Laude, University at Buffalo

Professional memberships

  • International Initiative for the Promotion of Political Economy
  • British Universities Industrial Relations Association
  • Autonomy Institute
  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Association

Student education

Modules I have taught on:

LUBS3095 Global Perspectives on HRM and Employment Relations

LUBS1765 Business and Society (Social Theory)

LUBS3001/5360M Gender and Equality at Work in Comparative Perspective

LUBS5320 Training and Development

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change