Work and Precarity
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Chapter 16 from A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory, edited by Imre Szeman, Sarah Blacker, and Justin Sully.
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The current economic crisis has returned work to the center of politics. This return is ambiguous and contradictory. Following Kathi Weeks’ discussion of the antinomies of work, this chapter examines three contradictions of work through Hegel, Marx, and Spinoza. Hegel explores the contradiction between the ethical and economic dimension of work; Marx investigates the contradiction between labor as an individual commodity and a cooperative endeavor; and Spinoza makes possible an examination of the activity and passivity of work, its relation to the affects of hope and fear. The sensibility of precarity can then be understood as siding with one contradiction against the others, emphasizing the ethical, individual, and passive dimension of labor. A movement against precarity must stress the economic, collective, and active dimension of labor.
Hegel, Marx, Spinoza, Fordism, post-Fordism, austerity, neoliberalism
Read, Jason. “Work and Precarity.” A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory, edited by Imre Szeman, et al., John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2017, pp. 269–281.