The Age of Precarity

The Age of Precarity:Endless Crisis as an Art of Government

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When Crisis Becomes the Norm: What Can We Do to Demand Change?

Crisis dominates the present historical moment. The economy is in crisis, politics in both its past and present forms is in crisis and our own individual lives are in crisis, made vulnerable by the fluctuations of the labor market and by the undoing of social and political ties we inherited from modernity. Yet, traditional views of crises as just temporary setbacks do not seem to hold any longer; this crisis seems permanent, with no way out and no alternatives on the horizon.

Reconstructing a political genealogy of the term from the Greek world to today’s neoliberalism, this book demonstrates that crisis, understood as a “choice” between revolution and conservation, is a peculiarity of the modern era that does not apply to the present day. However, since its origin, the trope of crisis has proven to be one of the most effective instruments of social discipline and administration. The analytical trajectory followed by this book – which spans from Plato to Hayek, from the juridical and medical science of antiquity to the current technocracy, passing through the “weapons of criticism” of Marx and Gramsci – finally identifies, following Benjamin and Foucault, precariousness as the “form of life” that characterizes crisis understood as an art of government. But we still need to answer the question: “How can we recreate the possibility of political alternatives?”

Reviews

  • Dario Gentili's book on crisis is one of the first genealogies of a concept that nowadays is crucial. In this way, through the rigorous analysis of the term, he captures an uncharted aspect of our contemporary condition

    Roberto Esposito
  • There is a crisis, there is no alternative. This is the rhetorical strategy through which governments across the world justify and legitimize unpopular political and economic decisions in this age, the age of precarity. Dario Gentili’s illuminating genealogical reconstruction of the dispositive of crisis is an indispensable tool to understand and contrast the very specific art of government implicit in today's globally predominant neoliberal policies.

    Elettra Stimilli
  • Dario Gentili’s superb The Age of Precarity takes a concept ubiquitous in contemporary left political and social theory, precarity, and endows it with new life and explanatory power. Deftly drawing on thinkers from Plato to Benjamin, Gramsci to Foucault, Schmitt to Hayek, Gentili diagnoses a present where crisis generates an ‘art of government’ of precarious life, and calls against a politics as a fight-to-the-death between forms of life, for a new politics of shared forms of life through which power is expressed in common.

    Matteo Mandarini, Queen Mary University of London