precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare

Precarity (also precariousness) is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat.

Quotes edit

  • Nowadays religious communities are good, I am sure, but they are mistaken about poverty. They accept, they admit, poverty on principle, but everything must be good and strong, buildings must be fire-proof. Precarity is everywhere rejected, and precarity is an essential element of poverty. This is forgotten.
  • These last days our refectory was near collapsing. We have put supplementary beams in place and thus it will last maybe two or three years more. Some day it will fall on our heads and that will be funny. Precarity enables us better to help the poor. When a community is always building and enlarging and embellishing, which is good in itself, there is nothing left over for the poor. We have no right to do so as long as there are slums and breadlines anywhere.
  • Debates around how best to respond to COVID-19 in Europe and the United States have illustrated the mutually reinforcing relationship between effective public health measures and conditions of labor, precarity, and poverty. Calls for people to self-isolate when sick — or the enforcement of longer periods of mandatory lockdowns — are economically impossible for the many people who cannot easily shift their work online, or those in the service sector who work in zero-hour contracts or other kinds of temporary employment. Recognizing the fundamental consequences of these work patterns for public health, many European governments have announced sweeping promises around compensation for those made unemployed or forced to stay at home during this crisis. It remains to be seen how effective these schemes will be, and to what degree they will actually meet the needs of the very large numbers of people who will lose their jobs as a result of the crisis. Nonetheless, we must recognize that such schemes will simply not exist for most of the world’s population. In countries where the majority of the labor force is engaged in informal work or depends upon unpredictable daily wages — much of the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia — there is no feasible way that people can choose to stay home or self-isolate. This must be viewed alongside the fact that there will almost certainly be very large increases in the “working poor” as a direct result of the crisis. [...] Without the mitigation effects offered through quarantine and isolation, the actual progress of the disease in the rest of the world will certainly be much more devastating than the harrowing scenes witnessed to date in China, Europe, and the United States. Moreover, workers involved in informal and precarious labor often live in slums and overcrowded housing — ideal conditions for the explosive spread of the virus.
  • [W]orkers involved primarily in immaterial production are a small minority of the gloval whole. What it means, rather, is that the qualities and characteristics of immaterial production are tending to transform the other forms of labor and indeed society as a whole. Some of these new characteristics are decidedly unwelcome. When our ideas and affects, or emotions, are put to work, for insance, and when they thus become subject in a way to the command of the boss, we often experience new and intense forms of violation or alienation. Furthermore, the contractual and material conditions of immaterial labor that tend to spread to the entire labor market are making the position of labor in general more precarious. The is one tendency, for example, in various forms of immaterial labor to blur the distinction between work time and nonwork time, extending the working day indefinietly to fill all of life, and another tendency for immaterial labor to function without stable long-term contracts, and thus to adopt the precarious position of becoming flexible (to accomplish several tasks) and mobile (to move continually among locations).

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