Current capitalism is characterized by instability and contingency on a global scale accompanied by the political imposition of austerity and the undoing of the social wage in developed economies. At the same time, the capitalist class has accumulated unprecedented surplus. By 2016 one percent of the global population will possess more than half of the world’s wealth. This trend has intensified every year for the last two decades.
Many theorists emphasize the rise of precariousness (or precarity) in many sectors as a hallmark of neoliberal, globalized capitalism. Most of us are experiencing this in an existential way. We and/or our families and friends can no longer count on a job with a living wage and benefits or on keeping a roof over our heads. We are living through a relentless, systematic marginalization of productive people who at one time could expect a relatively secure existence in the capitalist economy. Now, skilled factory and clerical workers take the jobs of unskilled workers. Unskilled workers become day laborers and fast-food vendors. The petite bourgeoisie of small owners, managers, and professionals scrape by with livings as free-lancers, adjuncts, and consultants.
The Precarity Task Force is exploring these conditions in a two-part class this spring. In the first part, we read Ursula Huws’ Labor in the Global Digital Economy and Samir Amin’s e Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism. The second part focuses on ideas from a spectrum of the Left about ways of confronting these realities, with readings of Guy Standing’s A Precariat Charter and Stanley Aronowitz’s just-published The Death and Life of American Labor, and concludes with readings about new forms of struggle and organizing around the world in the anthology New Forms of Worker Organization, edited by Immanuel Ness.