From precariousness to risk management and beyond

AuthorAngela Mitropoulos
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Conceptually and historically, precarious work teeters between curious symmetries, at once public and private, both magnified as general social condition and yet perceived as personal failing, simultaneously an index of deregulation and the increasing prevalence of compulsion. Blurring the distinction between the time of work and that of life, it might well indicate a decrease in the actual time of work while nevertheless amplifying all the senses in which one is always available, always preparing for, or always seeking work. It marks out, to put it another way, the paradoxical condition of the liberal (or perhaps: neo-liberal) subject – that is, both autonomous and coerced, situated on a terrain of an enhanced freedom of commerce existing alongside increasing constraints on the migratory movements of people, globalisation and border policing, the coincidence of self-determination and conformity, the invisible hand of the market and the iron fist of the state. None of which suggests that the usual critiques of liberalism offer a way out of this paradox, or a way to understand it, whether those critiques emerge from conservative or progressive approaches, whether social democratic or national socialist.

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