Precarity explained

Andrew Robinson’s The Precariat and the Cuts is long article, but very readable, and explains the precarity phenomenon from the angle of economic history, local development strategies, credit as means of social control, included and excluded populations—a very comprehensive treatment of the subject.

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3 Responses to Precarity explained

  1. Poor Richard says:

    My take: life is always and everywhere relatively precarious. No matter how things change, things stay the same. There is always the relative predator, the relative prey, the the cast of secondary characters, and the grab bag of plot twists whether we are in a jungle, a suburb or a ghetto. Also typical is the way we adapt towards states of emotional normalization as best we can. The human adaptive range is pretty good. So it is always the worst of times and the best of times. Always precarious and always, eh, what it is….

    Neanderthals seem to have used the same stone tools for 200k years without much change. That’s very stable. But I suspect they has as much day-to-day drama as we do. On the other hand, people adapt to life in some relative states of hell like Auschwitz.

    Maybe I’m just too old-school, but the precarity framework seems a bit too fussy or self-absorbed.


    • Poor Richard says:

      BTW did I mention that back in the day we had to walk 20 miles to school in the dark, in the snow… with no shoes….and BEARS?

      But I really am no stranger to being cold, wet, dirty, and hungry. I used to live in a blue school bus back in the mountains and grow my own food. Though I’m less hardened to physical discomfort nowadays, I guess I’m still fairly insensitive to precarity as a mental state.

      Be that as it may, I understand there are lots of people living in chronic fear, anxiety, and insecurity and psychological precarity. I guess they never had the necessary conditions or resources to adapt successfully to their hardships and uncertainties on a psychological level. Probably the best thing we can do is adopt as many as we can into our own local groups of mutual support and help nurse them back to less precarious states of mind.

      Unless each of us has adequate networks of peer support we risk tipping towards mental and emotional precarity. If we don’t all have small, close-knit local groups of mutual support, I don’t think we can raise and sustain a broader movement.

      That’s why I’ve been quoting the US Declaration of Independence lately. The last words are “[We] mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

      I think that is really a fundamental necessity. If you have that, precarity be damned.


  2. Andy says:

    Peer support / mutual aid are important to respond to precarity, and certainly raise resilience (i.e. the ability to undergo potential traumas without being traumatised). You’re right that people who have that are immunised against the worst of precarity – though the network needs to have enough resources overall for it to effectively shield individuals from precarity.

    But I do think the idea that it’s “fussy” or “self-absorbed” to take psychology seriously is a denial of the importance of psychological issues… there’s a certain character-armoured type who glorify their own sense of being able to adapt or cope, which is about 50% superiority complex and 50% just-world fallacy. The idea that people should just stop complaining and pull themselves together is the social equivalent of telling people to will themselves to grow back a limb they’ve lost. Who is telling us we should be tough, adaptable, etc etc? This is coming from the capitalists… social Darwinism is one of the ideological correlates of the rise of capitalism. It goes together with the view of people as resources to be exploited and used up, the denial of human needs and desires as a basis for social relations or ethical claims, and in general, a creeping misanthropy which causes a high tolerance for suffering.

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