Richard Seymour: The Meaning of the 'Precariat'
Published on Oct 5, 2015
13/05/2015, 11h, Academy of Fine Arts, Zagreb, Croatia
School of Contemporary Humanities /// 8th Subversive Film Festival "Spaces of Emancipation: Micropolitics and Rebellions"
"Why are our lives today so insecure? What happened with the post-war social contract?
How come the labour movement is not succeeding in reversing its decline? The concept of precariat in its dominant formulations gives the answer to all of these questions. It signifies that the changes in the labour markets, class formations and sociability mean that the old politics of social democracy which primarily deals with the questions of the material basis of the working class is weakening, and that the traditional working class is slowly disappearing. It is being replaced by a much more layering class system in which precariat (the most precarious workers, an "emerging class") can radically change the balance of political forces.
So the meaning of the concept of precariat is strategic. It does not offer the understanding of the possible class associations and agencies through which a progressive change is possible. However, in the way it is currently articulated, it fails to serve this purpose. The precariat is best understood as an interpellation which emphasizes and addresses the changing conditions of work and life in different social classes and class strata, and not as an "emerging class". In the lecture, I will advocate the above mentioned stand while showing that the understanding of the precariat, rearticulated in that way, can help to form radical, transformative politics for the 21 century."
Richard Seymour is a writer, broadcaster and socialist, raised in Northern Ireland and currently based in London. He is the author of The Liberal Defence of Murder (Verso, 2008), Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens (Verso, 2012), and Against Austerity (Pluto, 2014). A contributing editor of the new leftist magazine, Salvage, he writes for The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and many other publications. He currently presents a programme, ‘Media Review’, for TeleSur, and has previously appeared on BBC, Al Jazeera and C-Span. He is finishing a PhD at the London School of Economics, where he also teaches.