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The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class Paperback – 10 April 2014
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Buy Guy Standing's book, The Precariat! Or nick/borrow it! (John Harris, The Guardian)
This important and original book brings out the political dangers, so clear in contemporary America, of failing to address the insecurities of the Precariat. It also suggests the way forward: a reconstruction of the concept of work. (Eileen Applebaum, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington DC, USA)
Guy Standing provides an incisive account of how precariousness is becoming the new normality in globalised labour markets, and offers important guidelines for all concerned to build a more just society. (Richard Hyman, London School of Economics, UK)
This is an important book. (Citizen's Income Newsletter)
Standing has produced a well-informed and important book investigating, for the first time in a comprehensive way, the direction in which global economic security is moving in the 21st century. The book is packed with statistics presented in a very readable form and drawing on extensive published research. It is a compelling account of economic insecurity. (Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation)
Over 90% of workers in India are informal, poorly paid, without any economic security. Guy Standing combines vision with practicality in outlining policies that are urgently needed to provide security to workers such as these around the world. (Renana Jhabvala, Self-Employed Women’s Association of India)
[T]here is much in The Precariat to recommend it to labor educators, labor studies scholars, and activists of all sorts...a book that provides a clear and detailed understanding of how the situation of precarious employment affects the lives of the "precariat" individually, collectively, day to day, and over the longer term. This is the book's greatest value. Standing does this with many international examples, even though his main intellectual base is in Britain. His analysis of the impact of precarity, along with the diversity of examples from around the world, makes this the primary book on the topic to date. (Joe Berry, Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, Berkeley, CA Labor Studies Journal)
In summary, the analysis and arguments are compelling, for The Precariat brings together and develops many current strands of thought within the (social science) literature, and builds on the materialist tradition which ultimately leads to a rejection of 'neoliberalism'. Standing captures some of the collectivist social policy tradition established by Richard Titmuss, but with more attention to all forms of work and notions of occupational citizenship...The social policy community needs to engage more with issues at stake here, making The Precariat essential reading. (Chris Deeming Journal of Social Policy)
The most challenging proposal here is probably the one urging states to grant all citizens individually a modest basic income, without conditions or behavioural rules, but Standing provides the most brilliant, succinct and clear-eyed exposition of its economic and social advantages available so far. (Monica Threlfall, London Metropolitan University, UK E-International Relations)
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic; 1st edition (10 April 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1472536169
- ISBN-13 : 978-1472536167
- Dimensions : 13.77 x 1.97 x 21.72 cm
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Guy Standing sets out his argument that there is a global class, ‘the precariat’, which consists of many millions of people. Moreover, almost all of us could potentially find ourselves in the precariat at some point, even if we are not in it currently. Not yet a class-for -itself, partly because it is disunited, the precariat must become a class-for-itself in order to abolish itself, by being sufficiently united to put pressure on governments to introduce policies which would make its position less precarious.
Standing discusses what he means by the precariat. While by no means a homogeneous group, temporary labouring status comprises a central aspect of it, as does lack of a secure work-based identity. Another feature of the precariat is precarious income and a pattern of income that is different from that of other groups. The precariat fares badly in the seven aspects of labour-related security which Standing identifies as pursued by social democrats, labour parties and trade unions as their ‘industrial citizenship’ agenda for the working class after the Second World War (for example: adequate opportunities to obtain jobs, protection against arbitrary dismissal, assurance of an adequate stable income and possessing a collective voice in the labour market).
Standing discusses where the precariat came from and why it is growing so rapidly; he identifies the policies and institutional changes in the globalisation era (1975 – 2008) which have created this huge group of people with no anchor of stability. Standing’s view is that, while the neo-liberal thinkers who emerged in the late 1970s were partially correct in their diagnosis (that, in a globalised world, investment, employment and income would flow to where conditions were most welcoming), their prognosis was callous. One of the key neo-liberal ideas was that labour markets must become more flexible.
Standing talks about ‘the precariatised mind’, ‘The precariat is defined by short-termism, which could evolve into a mass incapacity to think long term, induced by the low probability of personal progress or building a career’, and he links this to an interesting point about the long-term effect which the digitised world, with its lack of respect for contemplation or reflection, is having on the brain. Standing goes on to say, ‘the precariat suffers from information overload without a lifestyle that could give them the control and capacity to sift the useful from the useless’.
Standing also discusses the lack of control which the precariat has over time. He talks of the huge amount of ‘work’ which is not ‘labour’ (i.e. unpaid work-related activities) which many members of the precariat are required to do, such as applying for jobs, travelling to interviews, travelling to the jobcentre, queuing at the jobcentre, completing forms to obtain social security benefits, keeping skills up-to-date, acquiring new skills, and so on. There is also some discussion about changes to how time is viewed in our globalised world.
One of Standing’s key points is that the precariat is a ‘dangerous’ class in that it has every potential to lead us towards a ‘politics of inferno’, particularly as politics has become commodified, there has been a ‘thinning’ of democracy, with fewer people belonging to political parties and low turnouts in most elections, and the social democratic project has been unable to survive globalisation; most mainstream political parties across Europe accepted the neo-liberal economic framework, as did the Democrats in the USA, and did little to support the precariat that grew in its shadow. Standing strongly puts forward the point that insecure people make angry people, who are prone to veer to the extreme right or extreme left politically and back populists. He mentions that the extreme right has already made inroads in many European countries. I do feel that Standing has been proved to be very prescient here, given what is currently happening with the US presidential election, and certainly Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour Leader would indicate that Labour Party members and supporters have rejected the Party’s acceptance of the neo-liberal framework under Blair and Brown.
In Standing’s final chapter, he sets out how we can move towards a ‘politics of paradise’ for the precariat, a key plank of which is a basic income for every citizen. I believe that he further develops his ideas on what policies would help the precariat in his later book, ‘A Precariat Charter’ (but I have not yet read this).
I cannot recommend ‘The Precariat’ highly enough for anyone who is interested in these types of issues. It is written in an engaging way and it’s fairly easy to understand. I think it’s a really important book.