© 2017

Precarious Enterprise on the Margins

Work, Poverty, and Homelessness in the City


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Jessica Gerrard
    Pages 1-26
  3. Jessica Gerrard
    Pages 27-52
  4. Jessica Gerrard
    Pages 79-105
  5. Jessica Gerrard
    Pages 107-129
  6. Jessica Gerrard
    Pages 131-152
  7. Jessica Gerrard
    Pages 179-201
  8. Jessica Gerrard
    Pages 203-206
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 207-214

About this book


This book explores the contemporary conditions of marginal work within the context of persistent unemployment, poverty, and homelessness in wealthy nations. Drawing from research concerning three cities—Melbourne, San Francisco, and London—Jessica Gerrard offers a rich account of one of the most precarious informal forms of work: selling homeless street press (The Big Issue and Street Sheet). Combining analyses of sellers’ everyday work experiences with theorizations of marginality, working, and learning, Gerrard provides much-needed insight into contemporary forms of entrepreneurial and precarious work. This book demonstrates that those who are unemployed and seemingly unproductive are, in fact, highly productive. They value, desire, and seek practical work experience whilst also struggling to fulfill the basic needs that many of us take for granted. 


adult development education learning lifelong learning poverty social science marginal work unemployment homelessness homeless street press precarious work informal work Street Sheet The Big Issue practical work experience entrepreneurship Enterprise on the Margins contemporary work

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of MelbourneMelbourne Graduate School of EducationMelbourneAustralia

About the authors

Jessica Gerrard is Senior Lecturer in Education, Equity, and Politics at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Bibliographic information


“This is a must read for anyone concerned with the reconstruction of labour in contemporary capitalism. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, Gerrard deftly weaves together how the restructuring of labour and the complex yet insidious matrix of inequalities it produces operates through a logic of inclusion via enterprise. Focusing on one of the most insecure yet global forms of work, Gerrard opens out new sociological vistas for understanding the margin and the marginal in the context of intensifying forms of inequality.” (Lisa Adkins, Professor of Sociology, University of Newcastle, Australia)

“This book is an engaging and illuminating encounter with the contemporary conditions of work and learning to work. It brings focused attention to the centrality of work – and now enterprise – in our lives. The ‘encounter’ is framed by seeking to understand the lives and experiences, the aestheticized and gendered performances of enterprise, of homeless sellers of street papers. In doing so Gerrard gives us renewed pause to reflect on those lives and the marginalised circumstances to which they point.” (Peter Kelly, Deputy Head of School (Research and Innovation), School of Education, RMIT University, Australia)

“This book is rich in data that gives a fascinating insight into the lives of homeless street press sellers. It will be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the reproduction of inequality through precarious working conditions in the contemporary period and I highly recommend it.” (Tracy Shildrick, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, UK)