Rise Of The Precariat: The New Working Class

British economist Guy Standing has coined the term “precariat” to refer to the fast-growing working-class caste of the 21st century. With labor markets now globalized and “flexiblized,” the risks and uncertainties of capitalism have been transferred almost completely away from capitalists and onto workers. Below, citizens discuss living and working in post-industrial England, where large numbers scrounge to obtain low-wage, unstable jobs.

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  • Anonymous

    At some point, some critical mass of people are going to say to themselves, “WTF? If we can support an entire economy with so many people working part time or not at all, why does ANYONE have to?”

    That’s probably the sort of thing that keeps fantasy marketeers awake at night. “How do I keep my hoarded wealth when I no longer have the figleaf of virtuous productivity to hide behind any longer? Mustn’t happen . . . mustn’t happen . . . “

  • Liam_McGonagle

    At some point, some critical mass of people are going to say to themselves, “WTF? If we can support an entire economy with so many people working part time or not at all, why does ANYONE have to?”

    That’s probably the sort of thing that keeps fantasy marketeers awake at night. “How do I keep my hoarded wealth when I no longer have the figleaf of virtuous productivity to hide behind any longer? Mustn’t happen . . . mustn’t happen . . . “

  • Rrauben

    Great video! It sums the situation up so succinctly.

    It is, of course, just as bad in the USA. It’s a huge part of what the Madison protests are about.

  • Rrauben

    Great video! It sums the situation up so succinctly.

    It is, of course, just as bad in the USA. It’s a huge part of what the Madison protests are about.

  • J_richter_scale

    To paraphrase Marx:

    Considering, that against this combined power of the elite classes the primary producers or precariat cannot unite and act for itself except by constituting itself into a mass party-movement, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties and movements, that this constitution of the precariat into a mass party-movement is indispensable in order to ensure the emancipation of its labour power,

    That such labour power can be emancipated only when, at minimum, the precariat is in collective possession of all means of societal production, all commons, etc., that there are only two forms under which all means of societal production, all commons, etc. can belong to them or return to community:

    1) The individual form which has never existed in a general state and which is increasingly eliminated by industrial progress;
    2) The collective form the material and intellectual elements of which are constituted by the very development of capitalist society;

    Considering,

    That again this collective re-appropriation, or political and economic expropriation of the elite classes, can arise only from the direct action of the primary producers or precariat, organized in a distinct mass party-movement;

    Such permanent organization must be pursued by all the means the precariat has at its disposal.

    • Marcelproust37

      But it’s the elite classes who produce and create, and produce businesses, capital, opportunity, and jobs. Why should the elite classes surrender their productiveness and productivity and creative abilities to feed and take care of the lower classes–I mean the precariat? Why would the precariate want to destroy those who provide them everything they already have and the potential to have more? And how can they have more, you might ask? Simple: by raising themselves up from the lower classes and becoming productive and creative and a part of the elite classes! Instead of destroying your betters, consider self-improvement and hard work, then become a member of your betters. If all this is too difficult for you to grasp, I refer you to two books to assist, both by the same author. They are: “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” and “Atlas Shrugged.” By Ayn Rand, of course, the antithesis of Marx, thank God!

      • Andrew

        The elite classes in America produce very little real wealth. Corporate CEOs and Wall Street bankers do little more in reality than gamble with tokens and push numbers around on their computers. There are true inventors and entrepreneurs, and I’m all for them owning the fruits of their labor, but in many cases even they would not be able to realize their visions without workers to carry their plans out. The money hoarders, on the other hand, merely organize private sector collectives (corporations) and corner markets so as to be able to suck economic power from creators and workers. Due to patent and copyright laws and the nature of corporate capitalism, most creators are paid only nominally more than laborers and their creations are owned by the corporations that employ them. As such, the profit derived form their productions goes to the financiers rather than those who produce.

        A perfect example is how little artists in the music industry are paid, compared to recording company executives.

        I’m all for private property–in fact, I think everyone should have at least some, even if they can’t find a job–but I’m not for those who have hoarded so much of the nation’s money that they can control what everyone else has access to. Most CEOs and probably all bankers are not inventors or true producers.

        • Marcelproust37

          In response to Andrew, I think we may have definition problems as to what or whom we each believe are the elite classes. I consider myself a member of the elite classes. And I am an artist. I don’t consider bankers, lawyers, politicians, and a number of corporate CEOs to be elite classes. I consider artists, inventors, industrialists, and numerous other kinds of capitalists and freedom-loving, hardworking, creative and productive people to be the elite classes. Bankers, bad corporate CEOs (for there are many good CEOs say, like Bill Gates who has created and provides millions of jobs to people), politicians, etc. I call rick, fat-cat plutocrats and greedy carpetbaggers. So I think you have your classification systems askew. I’m an elite class. Perhaps you are too. And I daresay I don’t hate myself nor you. Do you hate yourself? Please don’t. It can be very self-destructive behavior!

          By the way, I earned already a few thousand dollars this year from the work I do. And I’m holding on to it. Is that hoarding? Is it bad I hold on to it? Or should you or someone else tell me who I should give it away to? Also by the way, the main problem with every problem in our country–to whom you refer as the elite classes–is the government! It is the government upon whom you should lay your dislike and disdain and insult. For it is it who is destroying this country and the true elite classes to which we hardworking producting types belong. You want to punish and fix some class or group of people. Let’s fix the government. Let’s lay blame where it is due, my friend, and not lay it upon every person who has and has earned more wealth than you. Or us. Or anyone else.

          • Andrew

            Well, if everybody held on to all their money, the economy would collapse as there would be no spending and thus no earning. I don’t consider profit from investments to be true earning, as I do consider money earned by digging a ditch. Investment is a tricky thing, because ultimately money has to be spent (it only true function), and in the case of stock speculation money goes to wherever more money will go rather than the corporation that makes the best products or pollutes least. It’s economic masturbation.

            But the realization that money is merely a medium of exchange and not real wealth means that taxation is not necessary for the government to put money where it needs to. There’s nothing wrong with printing more, since it’s only valuable by agreement.

            I absolutely agree that the government is one of the problems in this country, but governments are not nor ever have been the only problems. Anyone who’s been a victim of a crime knows this. Your own designation of bankers and some CEOs as plutocrats and greedy carpetbaggers acknowledges this. In reality, government is mainly controlled by the moneyed interests who pay for politicians’ campaigns and now even get to write laws. So, yes, as long as the supply of money is limited all people who collect a lot of it are a big part of the problem. And many can and do use their money to control other individuals and limit their opportunities. I believe it is essentially a plutarchist plot to keep the masses controlled as underpaid employees.

            The problem with both communism and laissez-faire capitalism is that they’re both seeing only half of reality. They’re both utopian, psychologically split ideologies. Individuals and collectives cannot exist without each other–every collective is made of individuals and every individual depends on other individuals for education, the creation of goods, and even life itself (conception and birth).

          • Marcelproust37

            There is nothing wrong with capitalism. Not the free enterprise kind at least! If you don’t like capitalisml, why not move to a socialism-led-and-fed nation? There, no one has to hold on to their money. Cause no one has any! Meanwhile, by all means do not not hold on to your money. Spend it all and become broke. Or give it all to the government and become broke. Whichever. I intend to save most of mine. And spend the rest on good investments and via business products and services that are of superlative captialistic quality. If you have such a product or service, heck, I might even spend some of it on you. Socialist product or service? Nope. No quality there! You know?

          • Andrew

            Okay, I can’t discuss the real world with you if you’re going to get all defensive and start pulling straw men out of who knows where. I never said you should spend all your money and if you breathe slowly and try to free your mind of black and white thinking you’ll see that. My point was not against free enterprise, but finance capitalism. And yes, they are two different things.

          • Marcelproust37

            Nah, I’m an offensive lineman kind of fellow. Never defensive, although I am definitely a supporter of capitalism and would defend it to the end if called upon. I just take a fundamental approach to things, which perhaps might seem to some as too simiplistic or, as you have apparently interpreted, invoking straw men. I don’t see problems with any aspect of capitalism, finance or otherwise. The problem are those few who used the system illegally and take dishonest advantage of it. It’s always a few who give a bad name to the rest of us, sort of like the proverbial bad apple that ruins the whole barrel. The few corrupt, greedy individuals who some here have called elitists I call the few corrupt, greedy individuals. Carpetbaggers is a term I like. Crooks is a pretty accurate term, too, I think. I’m just not inclined to judge the whole by the part. If all this is black and white, so be it. But I think I pretty nicely described the gray: it being those few crooks who give a bad name to the many who are honest capitalists who create capital, jobs, investments, commerce, trade, and business in our country. I’m just not inclined to judge all capitalists–finance or otherwise–in disparaging terms, and thus judge any philosophy of capitalism bad or evil because there are a few bad apples in its barrel. This is judging the whole by the part which, as you may know–cause you seem to be a well-educated person–is a fallacy in logic. I’m glad to hear that you like free enterprise. Shall we shake hands on this and enjoy the pleasure of finding agreement on something?

          • Liam_McGonagle

            How many artists do you know that make $250k+ AGI? That’s what we’re talking about. To be honest, you seem to be in a distinct minority if you truly do not understand the term ‘elites’ in this context to refer to the handful of rentiers who are milking capital away from productive ventures.

            Perspective, Marcel, perspective. Stop wasting our time with bullshit attempts to redefine the conflict out of the issue. And if you truly don’t understand the issue, get out of the way and do some homework until you do.

          • Marcelproust37

            Well, I don’t know all the artists in the world who earn $250k +, nor all the other people I mention as the real elites of our world. But someday I hope to meet Bill Gates, Dean Koontz, Neil Diamond, Bruce Willis, and Steven Spielberg, just to name a few. But how many evil corporate CEOs do you personally know who are the horrible hoarders you and other socialists like to villify because they have wealth and you don’t? I was clear who I listed as rich fatcat plutocrats. Let me reiterate them since you seem to have problems reading simple English. They are: bankers, lawyers, politicians, SOME corporate CEOs, and big government. Now let me reiterate those I listed as true elites (the moral, spiritual, creative, non-socialistic, non-liberal, and free enterprise elites): artists, inventors, industrialists, and numerous other kinds of capitalists and freedom-loving, hardworking, creative and productive people. Oh, I forgot to include; most of the middle class!

            If you don’t want your time wasted, then learn how to read and understand plain English and clear and concise logic. And quit wasting my time having to reiterate what a person with a third-grade education in critical thinking can grasp. As for homework, I’ve just done yours for you. Egads, don’t let the intellectually and artistically elite do all your thinking for you!

            And if you want to get in a battle of wit and wisdom, bring it on. Further lessons in wit, writing, logic, truth, and critical thinking are free! I’ll indulge you until I become bored, as every elite must who has suffered ere long the tedium of the puerile proletariat.

      • Jane

        You lost all credibility when you decided to cite Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand was a woman hating racist who sincerely believed that if all the “elite” disappeared the world would collapse. I hate to tell you this, but inexplicably believing that the people who produce your food, ring up your groceries and make your clothes are beneath you does not make it so. The world runs because of the unwashed masses you disparage, without them, you’d have to grow your own food and make your own clothes and gosh, I imagine that would cut into a lot of the time you spend making “art.” You’re a fool who lives in a little bubble of privilege that is so thick you couldn’t find your way out with a map and a machete.

        • Marcelproust37

          You have a bad habit of accusing others of the crimes you are guilty.  It’s you who are the racistt and disparage the unwashed and washed masses!  Actually, I have grown my own food.  And guess what?  You ain’t getting any of it.  Why?  Because not only are you unwashed, but you’re rude and insulting.  And since you’re obviously a whiny liberal, you’re no doubt also ugly.  So noit only you don’t get any of my food and everything else I produce, but you don’t get to enjoy my art either. This means no truth and enlightenment for you.  You’ll have to remain ignorant and benighted as you are.  I’m not saving your sorry, thieving ass again.  Nor your self-centered, self-absorbed smug little world of government-sponsored welfare and handout which you couldn’t find your way out with a compass and an entire planet of producers, teachers, and thinkers who give you the privilege of existence!

  • J_richter_scale

    To paraphrase Marx:

    Considering, that against this combined power of the elite classes the primary producers or precariat cannot unite and act for itself except by constituting itself into a mass party-movement, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties and movements, that this constitution of the precariat into a mass party-movement is indispensable in order to ensure the emancipation of its labour power,

    That such labour power can be emancipated only when, at minimum, the precariat is in collective possession of all means of societal production, all commons, etc., that there are only two forms under which all means of societal production, all commons, etc. can belong to them or return to community:

    1) The individual form which has never existed in a general state and which is increasingly eliminated by industrial progress;
    2) The collective form the material and intellectual elements of which are constituted by the very development of capitalist society;

    Considering,

    That again this collective re-appropriation, or political and economic expropriation of the elite classes, can arise only from the direct action of the primary producers or precariat, organized in a distinct mass party-movement;

    Such permanent organization must be pursued by all the means the precariat has at its disposal.

  • Marcelproust37

    But it’s the elite classes who produce and create, and produce businesses, capital, opportunity, and jobs. Why should the elite classes surrender their productiveness and productivity and creative abilities to feed and take care of the lower classes–I mean the precariat? Why would the precariate want to destroy those who provide them everything they already have and the potential to have more? And how can they have more, you might ask? Simple: by raising themselves up from the lower classes and becoming productive and creative and a part of the elite classes! Instead of destroying your betters, consider self-improvement and hard work, then become a member of your betters. If all this is too difficult for you to grasp, I refer you to two books to assist, both by the same author. They are: “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” and “Atlas Shrugged.” By Ayn Rand, of course, the antithesis of Marx, thank God!

  • Andrew

    The elite classes in America produce very little real wealth. Corporate CEOs and Wall Street bankers do little more in reality than gamble with tokens and push numbers around on their computers. There are true inventors and entrepreneurs, and I’m all for them owning the fruits of their labor, but in many cases even they would not be able to realize their visions without workers to carry their plans out. The money hoarders, on the other hand, merely organize private sector collectives (corporations) and corner markets so as to be able to suck economic power from creators and workers. Due to patent and copyright laws and the nature of corporate capitalism, most creators are paid only nominally more than laborers and their creations are owned by the corporations that employ them. As such, the profit derived form their productions goes to the financiers rather than those who produce.

    A perfect example is how little artists in the music industry are paid, compared to recording company executives.

    I’m all for private property–in fact, I think everyone should have at least some, even if they can’t find a job–but I’m not for those who have hoarded so much of the nation’s money that they can control what everyone else has access to. Most CEOs and probably all bankers are not inventors or true producers.

  • Marcelproust37

    In response to Andrew, I think we may have definition problems as to what or whom we each believe are the elite classes. I consider myself a member of the elite classes. And I am an artist. I don’t consider bankers, lawyers, politicians, and a number of corporate CEOs to be elite classes. I consider artists, inventors, industrialists, and numerous other kinds of capitalists and freedom-loving, hardworking, creative and productive people to be the elite classes. Bankers, bad corporate CEOs (for there are many good CEOs say, like Bill Gates who has created and provides millions of jobs to people), politicians, etc. I call rick, fat-cat plutocrats and greedy carpetbaggers. So I think you have your classification systems askew. I’m an elite class. Perhaps you are too. And I daresay I don’t hate myself nor you. Do you hate yourself? Please don’t. It can be very self-destructive behavior!

    By the way, I earned already a few thousand dollars this year from the work I do. And I’m holding on to it. Is that hoarding? Is it bad I hold on to it? Or should you or someone else tell me who I should give it away to? Also by the way, the main problem with every problem in our country–to whom you refer as the elite classes–is the government! It is the government upon whom you should lay your dislike and disdain and insult. For it is it who is destroying this country and the true elite classes to which we hardworking producting types belong. You want to punish and fix some class or group of people. Let’s fix the government. Let’s lay blame where it is due, my friend, and not lay it upon every person who has and has earned more wealth than you. Or us. Or anyone else.

  • Andrew

    Well, if everybody held on to all their money, the economy would collapse as there would be no spending and thus no earning. I don’t consider profit from investments to be true earning, as I do consider money earned by digging a ditch. Investment is a tricky thing, because ultimately money has to be spent (it only true function), and in the case of stock speculation money goes to wherever more money will go rather than the corporation that makes the best products or pollutes least. It’s economic masturbation.

    But the realization that money is merely a medium of exchange and not real wealth means that taxation is not necessary for the government to put money where it needs to. There’s nothing wrong with printing more, since it’s only valuable by agreement.

    I absolutely agree that the government is one of the problems in this country, but governments are not nor ever have been the only problems. Anyone who’s been a victim of a crime knows this. Your own designation of bankers and some CEOs as plutocrats and greedy carpetbaggers acknowledges this. In reality, government is mainly controlled by the moneyed interests who pay for politicians’ campaigns and now even get to write laws. So, yes, as long as the supply of money is limited all people who collect a lot of it are a big part of the problem. And many can and do use their money to control other individuals and limit their opportunities. I believe it is essentially a plutarchist plot to keep the masses controlled as underpaid employees.

    The problem with both communism and laissez-faire capitalism is that they’re both seeing only half of reality. They’re both utopian, psychologically split ideologies. Individuals and collectives cannot exist without each other–every collective is made of individuals and every individual depends on other individuals for education, the creation of goods, and even life itself (conception and birth).

  • Liam_McGonagle

    How many artists do you know that make $250k+ AGI? That’s what we’re talking about. To be honest, you seem to be in a distinct minority if you truly do not understand the term ‘elites’ in this context to refer to the handful of rentiers who are milking capital away from productive ventures.

    Perspective, Marcel, perspective. Stop wasting our time with bullshit attempts to redefine the conflict out of the issue. And if you truly don’t understand the issue, get out of the way and do some homework until you do.

  • Marcelproust37

    Well, I don’t know all the artists in the world who earn $250k +, nor all the other people I mention as the real elites of our world. But someday I hope to meet Bill Gates, Dean Koontz, Neil Diamond, Bruce Willis, and Steven Spielberg, just to name a few. But how many evil corporate CEOs do you personally know who are the horrible hoarders you and other socialists like to villify because they have wealth and you don’t? I was clear who I listed as rich fatcat plutocrats. Let me reiterate them since you seem to have problems reading simple English. They are: bankers, lawyers, politicians, SOME corporate CEOs, and big government. Now let me reiterate those I listed as true elites (the moral, spiritual, creative, non-socialistic, non-liberal, and free enterprise elites): artists, inventors, industrialists, and numerous other kinds of capitalists and freedom-loving, hardworking, creative and productive people. Oh, I forgot to include; most of the middle class!

    If you don’t want your time wasted, then learn how to read and understand plain English and clear and concise logic. And quit wasting my time having to reiterate what a person with a third-grade education in critical thinking can grasp. As for homework, I’ve just done yours for you. Egads, don’t let the intellectually and artistically elite do all your thinking for you!

    And if you want to get in a battle of wit and wisdom, bring it on. Further lessons in wit, writing, logic, truth, and critical thinking are free! I’ll indulge you until I become bored, as every elite must who has suffered ere long the tedium of the puerile proletariat.

  • Marcelproust37

    There is nothing wrong with capitalism. Not the free enterprise kind at least! If you don’t like capitalisml, why not move to a socialism-led-and-fed nation? There, no one has to hold on to their money. Cause no one has any! Meanwhile, by all means do not not hold on to your money. Spend it all and become broke. Or give it all to the government and become broke. Whichever. I intend to save most of mine. And spend the rest on good investments and via business products and services that are of superlative captialistic quality. If you have such a product or service, heck, I might even spend some of it on you. Socialist product or service? Nope. No quality there! You know?

  • Andrew

    Okay, I can’t discuss the real world with you if you’re going to get all defensive and start pulling straw men out of who knows where. I never said you should spend all your money and if you breathe slowly and try to free your mind of black and white thinking you’ll see that. My point was not against free enterprise, but finance capitalism. And yes, they are two different things.

  • Marcelproust37

    Nah, I’m an offensive lineman kind of fellow. Never defensive, although I am definitely a supporter of capitalism and would defend it to the end if called upon. I just take a fundamental approach to things, which perhaps might seem to some as too simiplistic or, as you have apparently interpreted, invoking straw men. I don’t see problems with any aspect of capitalism, finance or otherwise. The problem are those few who used the system illegally and take dishonest advantage of it. It’s always a few who give a bad name to the rest of us, sort of like the proverbial bad apple that ruins the whole barrel. The few corrupt, greedy individuals who some here have called elitists I call the few corrupt, greedy individuals. Carpetbaggers is a term I like. Crooks is a pretty accurate term, too, I think. I’m just not inclined to judge the whole by the part. If all this is black and white, so be it. But I think I pretty nicely described the gray: it being those few crooks who give a bad name to the many who are honest capitalists who create capital, jobs, investments, commerce, trade, and business in our country. I’m just not inclined to judge all capitalists–finance or otherwise–in disparaging terms, and thus judge any philosophy of capitalism bad or evil because there are a few bad apples in its barrel. This is judging the whole by the part which, as you may know–cause you seem to be a well-educated person–is a fallacy in logic. I’m glad to hear that you like free enterprise. Shall we shake hands on this and enjoy the pleasure of finding agreement on something?

  • Jane

    You lost all credibility when you decided to cite Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand was a woman hating racist who sincerely believed that if all the “elite” disappeared the world would collapse. I hate to tell you this, but inexplicably believing that the people who produce your food, ring up your groceries and make your clothes are beneath you does not make it so. The world runs because of the unwashed masses you disparage, without them, you’d have to grow your own food and make your own clothes and gosh, I imagine that would cut into a lot of the time you spend making “art.” You’re a fool who lives in a little bubble of privilege that is so thick you couldn’t find your way out with a map and a machete.

  • Marcelproust37

    You have a bad habit of accusing others of the crimes you are guilty.  It’s you who are the racistt and disparage the unwashed and washed masses!  Actually, I have grown my own food.  And guess what?  You ain’t getting any of it.  Why?  Because not only are you unwashed, but you’re rude and insulting.  And since you’re obviously a whiny liberal, you’re no doubt also ugly.  So noit only you don’t get any of my food and everything else I produce, but you don’t get to enjoy my art either. This means no truth and enlightenment for you.  You’ll have to remain ignorant and benighted as you are.  I’m not saving your sorry, thieving ass again.  Nor your self-centered, self-absorbed smug little world of government-sponsored welfare and handout which you couldn’t find your way out with a compass and an entire planet of producers, teachers, and thinkers who give you the privilege of existence!

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