Precarity — Minority Condition or Majority Experience?

Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology book series (PSEPS)


This chapter explores the growing interest in precarity in its various forms and meanings. It shows that précarité has evolved terminologically from a concern with poverty to a broader sense of precariousness in employment and new forms of stratification and class formation. Précarité is also seen as a mode of social control in which labour is disciplined by the threat of job loss and the uncertainty of employment prospects. These different meanings are not consonant but offer contradictory perspectives on the subjective and structural dimensions of societal change. This chapter suggests that precarity’s rise to prominence should be situated in the broader postindustrial narrative of the transformation of work and the modernization of dual labour market theory. It further suggests that the labour market impacts of economic crises have provided important contexts within which discussion of precarious employment is framed. Crucially, since the onset of the ‘Great Recession’, the question is posed as to whether a further polarization within the labour market has occurred which stretches the gulf between ‘lovely jobs and lousy jobs’ (Goos and Manning, 2002). In this perspective, precarity is the preserve of those with tenuous connections to the world of work, in insecure, short-term irregular jobs and temporary employment — a minority condition. In another perspective, the labour impact of the economic recession is registered across the labour market in a variety of forms that generalizes and transmits the sense and experience of precarity to the majority of the labour force. This chapter therefore seeks to explore the form and distribution of precarity and finally speculates about its further conceptual development.


Labour Market Great Recession Temporary Employment Youth Unemployment Social Division 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Kevin Doogan 2015

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