One of the more likely futures would seem to be one of precarity, with a diminishing sense of security and safety. But what exactly does 'percarity' mean. Isabell Lorey makes a useful distinction between three senses of the term. The first -- precariousness -- she derives from Judith Butler, and might speak to the sense that we all owe the endurance of our fragile bodies to the work and care of others, just as others depend on us. Starting from this more affirmative concept, Lorey develops a pointed critique of what it meant to be precarious in the old welfare state model, and then of what it might mean in these 'neoliberal' times. Here is an extract from her new Verso Futures book State of Insecurity where she introduces some of her themes.
-- McKenzie Wark
The Government of the Precarious
If we fail to understand precarization, then we understand neither the politics nor the economy of the present. Precarization is not a marginal phenomenon, even in the rich regions of Europe. In the leading neoliberal Western industrial nations it can no longer be outsourced to the socio-geographical spaces of the periphery where it only affects others. Precarization is not an exception, it is rather the rule. It is spreading even in those areas that were long considered secure. It has become an instrument of governing and, at the same time, a basis for capitalist accumulation that serves social regulation and control.
The direct actions that took place across the US yesterday on Martin Luther King Day were accompanied by calls to reclaim Dr. King’s legacy, and highlight his commitment to radical action. They also served as a testament to the resilience and vision of the social movement galvanized in the wake of Mike Brown’s murder. From New York City to Oakland, Black Lives Matter has become a rallying cry for Black communities in the face of systematic racial discrimination and police brutality.
In a recent interview with George Yancy for The New York Times, Judith Butler weighed in on the potency of the nascent movement and the power of public gatherings.
Philosopher and professor in rhetoric at the University of California (Berkeley), Judith Butler, born in 1956, made her name in the English-speaking academic world a quarter of a century ago with the publication of her Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. This complex work, which has now become a classic, has nothing in common with the ‘gender theory’ recently invented by the opponents of gay marriage.
Far from having invented gender studies, which have been taught in American universities since the early 1960s and which sought to distinguish anatomical sex from socially or psychically constructed gender identities, Judith Butler was rather more of an iconoclastic heir to them. Basing herself on the French thought of the 1970s – from Simone de Beauvoir to Jacques Lacan – in her 1990 work she gave due focus to life on the ‘border lines’, arguing that sexual difference is always fluid and that transsexuality (the conviction that one belongs to another sex), for example, could be a way of subverting the established order and refusing the biological norm. Butler had herself very early in life found herself in a situation outside the norm, lacking in borders, on account of her identity as a Jewish woman raised as a Jew but critical of the policies of the State of Israel.