The new working class: Welcome to the Precariat

It’s the latest neologism in economic theory, a combination of precarious and proletariat, defining the desideratum of the new model disaster capitalism in which employees are transformed into spare parts, to be used as needed, then discarded.

In this video from The Guardian, journalists John Harris and John Domokos look at Britain’s growing precariat, interviewing workers who are confronting a world where workers no longer enjoy steady jobs and benefits. One of those interviewed is  economist Guy Standing, professor of social and economic security at the University of Bath, author of the soon-to-be-published The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class.

The precariat has long existed at the margins of the economy in the pieceworkers, temps, and flextimers who scrambled for fleeting employment. But now it’s growing, as jobs once given to full-time employees are instead parsed out to contracting firms, which slice off a hefty portion of worker pay, and as jobs are reduced to temporary “just in time” positions and workers are hired for brief spans as “independent contractors.”

No wonder, then, that the Republican governors are going after unions. It’s so much more profitable for their corporate masters, who find it so much easier to control an atomized working class more concerned about simply finding jobs than fighting for an equitable share of the wealth and public goods created by their labor.

And the precariat is a growing phenomenon in all industrialized nations, even in Japan, as the forces of global finance and disaster capital return with a vengeance on the nations which spawned them.

As Anton Steinpilz writes at Generation Bubble:

As globalization grew apace, even the very character of class antagonism changed, evolving  in such a manner that the terms emerging from struggles past were weighed against the present situation and found wanting. Thus the proletariat, lumpen or otherwise, found themselves recast as the “precariat,” a neologism coined to cover all of those over whom the new neoliberal regime runs rough-shod. A quick survey of the battered and bruised shows that the victims are just about everyone, from white-collared cognitive laborers dispatched to Bangalore to train their replacements, to house cleaners and field hands fleeing savage destitution in their native lands only to find themselves exploitable nonentities and objects of popular resentment.

H/T to Sociological Images.


4 responses to “The new working class: Welcome to the Precariat

  1. Jacob Richter

    Only a so-called “dictatorship of the precariat” can abolish the social condition of precarity. But to go there, political awareness and related struggles, not mere labour disputes passing for “class struggle” in bourgeois and academic circles, are needed.

  2. Jacob Richter

    To paraphrase Marx:

    Considering, that against this combined power of the elite classes the primary producers or precariat cannot unite and act for itself except by constituting itself into a mass party-movement, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties and movements, that this constitution of the precariat into a mass party-movement is indispensable in order to ensure the emancipation of its labour power,

    That such labour power can be emancipated only when, at minimum, the precariat is in collective possession of all means of societal production, all commons, etc., that there are only two forms under which all means of societal production, all commons, etc. can belong to them or return to community:

    1) The individual form which has never existed in a general state and which is increasingly eliminated by industrial progress;
    2) The collective form the material and intellectual elements of which are constituted by the very development of capitalist society;


    That again this collective re-appropriation, or political and economic expropriation of the elite classes, can arise only from the direct action of the primary producers or precariat, organized in a distinct mass party-movement;

    Such permanent organization must be pursued by all the means the precariat has at its disposal.

  3. Pingback: Labor Market | Cognitariat, Proletariat, Precariat | Generation Bubble

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