It is striking the United States has not developed a discourse of precarity. Today, the gap between rich and poor stands at its widest in history, and the unemployment rate hangs around at 8.9%; this statistic does not include the long-term unemployed, the underemployed (those working in part-time positions), and those simply not seeking work at all. There is no discourse or vocabulary for precarity, yet it is structurally integral to how our economy (whatever that word might mean) functions.
Simply defined and more broadly placed, precarity designates non-standard employment which cannot support a household and sustains an insecure relation between poverty and survival. Also, it points out the immaterial, affective, cognitive and creative demands now made upon much of the global workforce, wherein subjectivity itself must be inhabited by the zone of work. There is no more 'clocking in and clocking out.' Precarity means cash in hand, payday loans, internships, volunteers working without pay, zero benefits, telecommuting; precarity means taking what you can get, and getting what you can take.
More essentially, precarity is inherently gendered: the "feminization" of post-Fordist labor is part and parcel of the fragmentation, feast-or-famine nature of work today.
While workers of yesterday organized on the shop floor and made demands of the state for an existence within its purview, today, the decentralized, estranged and balkanized workforce of the service sector suffers from increasingly draconian austerity measures from above, and at the same time embraces the refusal of work. This 'double bind' paradoxically explains our globalized world, and yet little mainstream arguments have endeavoured to explain it. The second paradox could be formulated as follows: the more precarity is ignored, the more it is apparent to the rest of us.
2009 and 2010 witnessed a global wave of strikes against the growing immiseration of populations, a mass mobilization of students against the Bologna process and the corporatization of education, and street insurgencies against the forces that wish to maintain the status quo ante bustum. There is no way to understand the way we live now without drawing on the conceptual resources of precarity and the precariat.
Precariatans of all countries, unite! by Andrew Robinson
Promissory Notes: From Crises to Commons (PDF) by Midnight Notes Collective
The Anti-Anti-Oedipus: Representing Post-Fordist Subjectivity by Mathias Nilges
Precarity as Political Concept, or, Fordism as Exception by Brett Neilson
The New Spirit of Capitalism by Luc Boltanski & Eve Chiapello
Precarious Life by Judith Butler
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Precarious Rhapsody by Franco 'Bifo' Berardi
Uses of a Whirlwind by Team Colors Collective
Multitude by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
Urban Outcasts by Loic Wacquant
Just Seeds Collective