Precarity and “affective resistance”

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The word precarity is becoming increasingly fashionable as a way of describing the effects of neoliberal policy. The concept expresses the sense that the state has broken its ideological promise (what Polanyi posited in The Great Transformation) to ameliorate the misery capitalism necessarily generates. The state tries to offload as much of the responsibility for maintaining a minimum standard of well-being for its citizens, while corporations simultaneously shift as much of the economic risk to their workers, offering little in the way of benefits, pensions, and security. Individuals are expected to bear the burdens imposed by recession and fend for themselves as much as possible in the economy, even as the destructured work sphere that results from post-Fordist reforms demands an intensified cooperation among workers. The stress of having to constantly cooperate and compete with co-workers at the same time is just another of the emotional burdens that constitute precarity.

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