Precarity is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. It is a state of existence in which material provision and psychological wellness are adversely affected by a lack of regular or secure income. It is a political, economic, and cultural process and a social and psychological condition. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat. It is an emerging abandonment that pushes us away from a livable life. Precarity is a political problem rather than some kind of temporary technical mistake of capitalism. It summarises the insecurity generated by living through perpetual instability:
This term is nested within larger ontological questions of finitude and the ultimate precariousness of life. It is a term used by sociologists to refer to the spread of contingent work and insecure employment within the labor market. Understanding life as precarious suggests that social existence itself depends on interdependency through the care of others. The term is also used to refer to the subjective condition of those who experience insecure work. The bodies and affective labor of other humans and nonhumans sustain our survival. It occurs when the needs of production and capital accumulation enter into conflict with the established system of regulating social-labor relations at the level of the national state. We also come to depend on institutionalized forms of recognition, infrastructure that shape our place in the world. The precarity of the labor market provokes the “domino effect”, giving an unstable and unreliable character to all economic and social connections of individuals. When these systems of care and support are fragmented by the uneven impacts of capitalism and global forms of racism and exploitation, precarity emerges as an acute expression of precariousness. Of course, precarity is a constructed condition, consciously supported for certain social groups in accordance with the interests of modern global capitalism. It is not an occasional effect but rather a constructed system of neoexploitation.
Precarity is thus fundamentally concerned with politics. It affects the whole profession, not just a minority within it. ‘Free market’ advocates claim that precarious work is an economic necessity. It describes the way that the precariousness of life is exploited, how the lives of underemployed minorities, their struggles, and suffering, are rendered abject and meaningless. But it is a political problem with political solutions. Policymakers often claim that we should develop human capital, promote education, or give more inclusive opportunities to vulnerable social groups.