Precarity North and South: A Southern Critique of Guy Standing

  • Ben Scully University of the Witwatersrand


Guy Standing is among the most provocative and influential analysts of the rise of precarious work around the world. His writing is part of a wave of global labour studies that has documented the spread of precarious work throughout the Global North and South. However, this article argues that by treating precarity around the world as a single phenomenon, produced by globalisation, the work of Standing and others obscures the different and much longer history of precarious work in the Global South. This article shows how many of the features that Standing associates with the contemporary “precariat” have long been widespread among Southern workers. This longer history of precarity has important implications for contemporary debates about a new politics of labour, which is a central focus of Standing’s recent work.