Navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of Precarious Work: Through the Storm of Contingency
Marx contended that the Capital–Labor relation is massively and structurally unequal; the former feeding vampire-like off the latter. This chapter contends that—in keeping with the original thesis of Capital—the increasing social reality of “precariousness” or “contingency” work, while becoming that much scarcer and insecure, remains the major form of social reproduction in contemporary society, necessarily remaining the major means for material subsistence for a majority of its members. This chapter aims to contribute to a critical theory of “flexibility”/precarity informed by Marx’s own critical theory of the Capital–Labor relation which it also argues is mystified by the ideology which aims to present such conditions as their opposite. The effort to define and articulate a critical theory of precarious or contingent labor is best served by Capital and its original recognition that the material terms of existence—work, or employment—remain the primary social determinant in social reproduction itself.
- BBC. (2008). How Did the Credit Crunch at the End of 2007 Become a Full Financial Meltdown by the Middle of 2008, and Finally Turn into a Global Recession? http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8242825.stm.
- Butler, S. (2015, February 3). Sports Direct Faces Multimillion-Pound Claim from Zero-Hours Contract Workers. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/03/sports-direct-zero-contract-workers-compensation.
- Butler, P. (2016). DWP ‘Punishing’ Low-Paid Full-Time Workers Under New Benefits Rule. The Guardian, p. 14. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/14/dwp-punishing-low-paid-full-time-workers-under-new-benefits-rule.
- Butler, S., & Osborne, S. (2017, January 6). Courier Wins Holiday Pay in Key Tribunal Ruling on Gig Economy. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/06/courier-wins-holiday-pay-in-latest-key-tribunal-ruling-for-gig-economy.
- Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB). (2015). Neither One Thing Nor the Other: How Reducing Bogus Self-Employment Could Benefit Workers, Business, and the Exchequer. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/Global/CitizensAdvice/Work%20Publications/Neither%20one%20thing%20nor%20the%20other.pdf.
- Cleaver, H. (2017, April 6–7). Keynote Address, Marx’s Critique of Political Economy and the Global Crisis Today On the 150th Anniversary of the Publication of Karl Marx’s Capital. Hofstra Cultural Center, Hofstra University.Google Scholar
- Davies, W. (2015). Incredible Neoliberalism. https://www.academia.edu/29616892/Incredible_Neoliberalism.
- Davies, W. (2016, September–October). Incredible Neoliberalism in New Left Review. https://newleftreview.org/II/101/william-davies-the-new-neoliberalism.
- Dean, J. (2017). Neoliberalism and Its Contradictions. https://www.academia.edu/1145526/Neoliberalism_and_its_contradictions.
- Garland, C. (2016, September 6–8). Reductio ad absurdum: Workfare and Bogus ‘Volunteering’ to Discipline the Unwanted Surplus Labour of Capital. Unpaid and Unfree Work Stream ‘Work in Crisis’ Work, Employment and Society Conference and the British Sociological Association (BSA) 2016 Conference, 6–8 September 2016, University Business School (LUBS), University of Leeds. http://www.britsoc.co.uk/events/wes-conference.aspx.
- Grove, J. (2013, June 6). ‘Academics’ Bin Diving ‘Caused by Zero-Hours Contracts’. Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/academics-bin-diving-caused-by-zero-hours-contracts/2004381.article.
- Harvey, D. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Kilgannon, C. (2014, March 27). Without Tenure or a Home. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/nyregion/without-tenure-or-a-home.html?_r=1.
- Maisano, C. (2014, January 21). Chicken Soup for the Neoliberal Soul. Jacobin. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/01/chicken-soup-for-the-neoliberal-soul/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=socialnetwork.
- Maroukis, T., & Carmel, T. (2015). Zero Hours and Temp Jobs Are No Help to ‘Hardworking People’. The Conversation https://theconversation.com/zero-hours-and-temp-jobs-are-no-help-to-hardworking-people-42453.
- Marx, K. (1847). Wage Labour and Capital. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/.
- Marx, K. (1857). Capital Vol. 1. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch20.htm.
- Marx, K. (1867). The Interests of Capital and Wage-Labour Are Diametrically Opposed Effect of Growth of Productive Capital on Wages. Wage Labour and Capital. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/ch08.htm.
- Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1845). The Essence of the Materialist Conception of History: Social Being and Social Consciousness. The German Ideology. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm.
- McSmith, A. (2014, May 6). Self-Employed Are Recession’s Hidden Victims. The Essential Daily Briefing.Google Scholar
- Monaghan, A. (2017, May 11). Number of Zero-Hours Contracts Stalls at ‘Staggering’ 1.7m. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/may/11/number-of-zero-hours-contracts-stalls-at-staggering-1-7-million.
- Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2015, Februrary 25). Release: Contracts with No Guaranteed Hours, Zero Hour Contracts. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/contracts-with-no-guaranteed-hours/zero-hour-contracts–2014/index.html.
- Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2017, February). Statistical Bulletin: UK Labour Market. https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/feb2017.
- Peachy, K. (2017, February 10). ‘Plumber Wins Workers’ Rights Battle Against Pimlico Plumbers. BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38931211.
- Press Association. (2010, October 1). Benefits to Be Replaced by ‘Universal Credit’ Scheme’ Press Association. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/oct/01/benefits-universal-credit-scheme.
- Rodionova, Z. (2017, April 26). McDonald’s to Offer Fixed Hours Contracts for All Its 115,000 UK Employees. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/mcdonald-uk-employees-fixed-hour-zero-hour-contracts-gig-economoy-fast-food-chain-job-workers-a7702816.html.
- Ruddick, G. (2017, April 25). McDonald’s Offers Fixed Contracts to 115,000 UK Zero-Hours Workers. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/25/mcdonalds-contracts-uk-zero-hours-workers.
- Sandhu, S. (2016, September 12). JD Wetherspoon to Offer ‘Guaranteed Hour Contracts’ to Zero Hours Workers. News: The Essential Daily Briefing. https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/uk/jd-wetherspoon-offer-zero-hours-employees-fixed-hours/.
- Soper, K. (2017). Wish List. https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/wish-list/.
- Stone, J. (2016, April 15). DWP ‘Punishing the Working Poor’ with New Sanctions in Universal Credit System. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-punishing-the-working-poor-with-sanctions-in-new-universal-credit-system-a6985461.html.
- Wolf, M. (2015, November 10). In the Long Shadow of the Great Recession. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/373793a2-86cf-11e5-9f8c-a8d619fa707c.