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<nettime> new precarity entry on wikipedia
Alex Foti on Wed, 27 Sep 2006 18:13:43 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> new precarity entry on wikipedia

Dear brainworkers of the world,

I just posted, after consulting with the euromayday mailing list, the
following entry.

wildcat ciaos with mayday 007 in mind, lx


>From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Precarity has been adopted in leftist circles as the English-language
equivalent of Precariedad, Précarité, Precarietà, terms of everyday
usage in Latin countries that refer to the widespread condition
of temporary, flexible, contingent, casual, intermittent work in
postindustrial societies, brought about by the neoliberal labor market
reforms that have strengthtened the right to manage and the bargaining
power of big and small employers since the 1980s.

Precarity is a general term to describe the fact that large parts
of the population are being subject to flexible exploitation or
flexploitation (low and insecure pay, high blackmailability,
intermittent income etc), and existential precariousness (high risk
of social exclusion because of low wages, welfare cuts, high cost of
living etc). This condition of precarity is said to affect all of
service labor in a narrow sense, and the whole of society in a wider
sense, but particulary youth, women, immigrants.

While contingent labor has been a constant of capitalist societies
since the industrial revolution, it is argued that the flexible
labor force has now moved from the peripheral position it had under
Fordism to a core position in the process of capitalist accumulation
under Post-Fordism, which is thought to be increasingly based on the
casualized efforts of affective, creative, immaterial labor. There is
scattered empirical evidence in support of this thesis, such as the
growing share of non-standard employment on the overall labor force,
particularly on new hires (for example, in Western Europe, between
a quarter and a third of the labor forces now works under temporary
and/or part-time contracts, with peaks in UK, Holland, Spain, and

More problematic is the fact that precarity seems to conflate two
categories of workers that are at opposite ends of labor market
segmentation in postindustrial economies: pink collars working in
retail and low-end services (cleaners, janitors, nurses etc.) under
constrictive but standardized employment norms which leave them
fragmented vis-a-vis employers' power; and young talent temping for
cheap in the information economy of big cities around the world: the
creative class of strongly individualistic workers illlustrated by
managerial literature.

It also remains to be seeen whether the insider/outsider division that
economists observe in European labor markets means that the young,
precarious, non-voting, and non-owning outsiders have fundamentally
conflicting aims with respect to older insiders who tend to work
full-time, long-term contracts and/or enjoy relatively high pension
benefits and who command a disproportionate weight in European public
opinion and political debate.

Precarity and the Antiglobalization Movement

Around year 2000, the word started being used in its English usage
by the antiglobalization movement (Marches Européennes contre le
chômage la précarité et les exclusions; European Marches against
uneployment, precarity and social exclusion), and also in EU official
reports on social welfare. But it was in the strikes of young
part-timers at McDonald's and Pizza Hut in the winter of 2000, the
first political union network emerged in Europe explicitly devoted to
fighting precarity: Stop Précarité, with links to AC!, CGT, SUD, CNT,
trotzkyites and other elements of the French radical left.

In 2001 Italian antiglobalization collectives and networks, as
they were preparing for the Genoa countersummit just months away,
inaugurated in Milan a new kind of first of may, MAYDAY, spelling it
like the international call for rescue, and explicitly centering it on
the street representation of the so-called "precarious generation". It
employed carnival-like techniques of agitation (allegorical wagons,
media subvertising, colorful actions etc.) in imitation of gay prides
and love parades of the 1990s. Italian activists meant it as a revival
of the wobbly traditions of May Day, and consequently as a break with
traditional union representation and social-democratic compromise that
had allowed precarity and social insecurity to spread unchecked to
reach critical levels in all of Europe, thus repeating the experience
of UK and US economies with a few years' lag.

By 2003, the event had grown exponentially in size, and Catalan
antiglobalization activists participated as non-neutral observers.
In 2004, Barcelona joined Milan's mayday efforts, as delegations
of French Intermittents participated as guests of honor in both
mayday parades. That year also saw the launch of the icon of San
Precario, patron saint of the struggle against precarity. The icon
proved very popular in Italy and abroad, and would colonize the
mainstream mediascape in the following years. By virtue of all these
developments, mayday 004 drew 80,000 young protesters from all over
Italy, and the rest of Europe took notice.

Precarity and Euromayday

In October 2004, libertarian and syndicalist collectives from all over
Europe gathered at Middlesex University at "Beyond ESF" (a critical
reference to the European Social Forum that was being held elsewhere
in London) in order to give life to a unified European May Day of
precarious and migrant workers: EUROMAYDAY, which involved a dozen of
European cities in 2005, and about twenty in 2006, with Milan, Paris,
Helsinki, Hamburg, and Sevilla being among the most lively nodes. In
2006, the mayday process was launched in Brussels on Good Friday with
few hundreds activists from Belgium, France, Italy, Germany protesting
against pro-business lobbies in the European Quarter: "no borders, no
precarity: fuck the new inequality!".

The euromayday network has gathered several times across the EU
to discuss in its assemblies common actions against precarity and
mobilizations against the persecution of immigrants, and particularly
the segregation of undocumented migrants in detention centers all over
Europe. Euromayday demands the full adoption of the EU directive on
temporary workers being blocked by the Barroso Commission, as well as
a European minimum wage and basic income. Cyber and queer rights are
also part of the euromayday deliberations and activities.

Rebelling against precarity in France, Denmark, and the US

A core constituency of mayday has been the movement of Intermittents,
the French expression to refer to stage hands and showbiz personnel.
In 2002-2005, the Intermittents captured the French imagination and
filled the press with their inventive rebellious tactics (e.g. they
famously disrupted live TV news programs and the 2004 edition of the
Cannes festival) denouncing precarity in the form of cuts to their
unemployment benefits (they counterproposed an alternative reform of
the system which was so well crafted that managed to put French élites
and union leaders in an awkward position)

In the early months of 2006, French youth rejected the CPE, the
first-job contratct introduced by the government who made it easier to
fire workers under 26. Clashes with the riot police, as it reclaimed
Sorbonne from occupying students was the signal that something major
was happening, as the university had been the epicenter of social
insurgence in 1968. Four decades later, France was again paralyzed
by huge student demonstrations and solidarity strikes of the French
major unions, as well as the more militant unions and organizations.
With the vast majority of French universities occupied for more than
a month, and the whole nation on strike, the Villepin government was
forced to withdraw the provision, in a test of force with democracy
in the streets that weakend the presidency itself. Le Monde commented
that "précarité" was going to be a central issue in the upcoming 2007
presidential elections.

Few months before, France had been rocked by generalized rioting of
the French youth of Arab and African descent in its suburban ghettos
(banlieues) to express angst at racial and economic discrimination
from the rest of French society. Although aspects of the same national
malaise and social anguish, banlieue rioters and student protesters
did not really share tacticts and demands. The French explosion of
2006 against precarity was followed a few months later by a lengthy
general strike in Denmark to protest against welfare cuts especially
discriminatory with respect to young people. All universities were
occupied, and the right-wing government was forced to withdraw the
provisions that had to do with student subsidies and other welfare
benefits for young people, although it retained pension cuts for older

In a different context, May Day 2006 was also a historic day of
protest for U.S. immigrants, mostly of Latin-American origin, who
mobilized in all American big cities to protest against a punitive
anti-immigration bill being discussed in Congress. Hundreds of
thousands of people from San Francisco to Chicago celebrated the
first of may by taking the streets against increased repression of
undocument immigration by the Bush administration. Grassroots and
community organizing, helped and funded by the progressive wing
of North-American unionism -- which had already been behind the
successful Justice for Janitors campaign, narrated by Ken Loach in
Bread and Roses, that has organized many legal and illegal immigrants
in Los Angeles -- were crucial for the media impact and social
magnitude of the demonstrations.

See also

    * Defunct First Employment Contract (CPE)
    * New Employment Contract (CNE)


External links

    * http://www.euromarches.org
    * http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/publications/2003/ke5103471_en.html
    * http://www.euromayday.org/
    * http://www.chainworkers.org/
    * http://www.stop-precarite.org
    * http://www.yomango.net
    * http://www.cip-idf.org
    * http://www.greenpeppermagazine.org/process/tiki-index.php?page=Precarity+Issue
    * http://www.metamute.org/en/node/415
    * http://www.precarity.info/
    * http://helsinki.euromayday.org/index2.htm
    * http://berlin.euromayday.org/
    * http://www.maydaysur.org/
    * http://www.maydayfr.org/
    * http://www.actupparis.org/
    * http://www.generation-precaire.org/
    * http://www.ac.eu.org

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precarity";

Categories: Anti-globalization | Employment | Labor

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