Saturday, 3 December 2016

Marcel Paret on the Politics of Solidarity and Agency in an Age of Precarity

Marcel Paret (2016) Politics of Solidarity and Agency in an Age of Precarity. Global Labor Journal 7(2): 174-188.
Abstract: This article critically examines Guy Standing’s A Precariat Charter by posing three questions: 1) What is the significance of the North/South divide for the global spread of the precariat? 2) Is the precariat an agent of transformation, or simply a passive recipient? 3) How should we understand the fragmentation of the working class and its implications for progressive change? In addressing these questions, I argue that Standing’s analysis offers useful insights into the current era of insecurity. But it downplays important variations in forms of precarity, and also over-emphasises fragmentation and weakness. The limits of this approach are illustrated through two empirical examples drawn from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Oakland, United States. Taken together, these examples point towards a broader and more fluid understanding of the “working class”. They also underscore possibilities for working-class solidarity, both between stable workers and their more precarious counterparts, and between different groups that Standing identifies as the precariat.