Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Standing Precariat (1)

Earlier this year I heard and interview with Guy Standing. His message was one of the most important that I have heard for a while. His solution is mostly wrong, but he has diagnosed a problem in modern society that everyone who cares about the future should think about. The fact that his solutions will not work, does not make the problem he has identified go away.

Standing says that globalisation has opened up the world economy. This has encouraged free markets, competiveness, capital flows and commodification. The nature of the state has changed and the institutions of social solidarity have been dismantled. The workforce of the world has trebled shifting the balance of power between labour and capital.

Standing says that a class fragmentation has taken place, that makes old-style Marxist categories redundant and antiquated. New classes are emerging.

  • The plutocracy is at the top. They are much less than one percent. These billionaires are often on the edge of criminality.

  • The salariat still have long-term employment security. They get the benefits of pensions, sick leave and annual leave.

  • The proficians are self-entrepreneurs, independent minded, educated. They are very busy selling their services, but they are on the edge of exhaustion.

  • The core is the old working class. They used to have stable long-time employment in full-time jobs. This group is shrinking fast.

  • The precariat are taking shape at the bottom. This is a class in the making, so they are not fully aware of what is happening. They have insecure employment, insecure incomes, insecure jobs. Increasingly, they are employed in indirect forms of labour. They are people who do not have an occupation narrative that gives a sense of obligation and meaning to their lives. The cannot define themselves in occupational terms. They have to get a huge amount of work for labour that does not get paid, eg training and travel between jobs.

Guy Standing's book is called The Precariat: The New Danger of Class

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