Politics of Solidarity and Agency in an Age of Precarity

  • Marcel Paret University of Utah


This article critically examines Guy Standing’s A Precariat Charter by posing three questions: 1) What is the significance of the North/South divide for the global spread of the precariat? 2) Is the precariat an agent of transformation, or simply a passive recipient? 3) How should we understand the fragmentation of the working class and its implications for progressive change? In addressing these questions, I argue that Standing’s analysis offers useful insights into the current era of insecurity. But it downplays important variations in forms of precarity, and also over-emphasises fragmentation and weakness. The limits of this approach are illustrated through two empirical examples drawn from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Oakland, United States. Taken together, these examples point towards a broader and more fluid understanding of the “working class”. They also underscore possibilities for working-class solidarity, both between stable workers and their more precarious counterparts, and between different groups that Standing identifies as the precariat.