A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens
by Guy Standing (Bloomsbury, UK, $39.99)
Reviewed by Max Rashbrooke
[Cross-posted from Max Rashbrooke's blog.]
Guy Standing’s 2011 book, The Precariat, made headlines by identifying what he called “a new dangerous class”. Marx had had the proletariat; now the most important class in the modern economy was, Standing argued, the precariat, the millions of people working in short-term, casual, precarious jobs. It was a brilliant term, and a powerful piece of analysis.
It was relevant around the world, and here in New Zealand, where we know that at least 30% of the workforce, and probably more like 40%, are in this kind of precarious work. As elsewhere, the work they do can be deeply damaging to their lives, and they are increasingly denied rights and privileges afforded to other citizens. (In fact, Standing argues, they are less and less ‘citizens’, and more and more ‘denizens’, people who live somewhere but do not have the rights of its citizens.)
The Precariat Charter, Standing’s follow-up, tries to chart a path to the future, one in which precarious work is abolished and the people who do it regain their full status as citizens. It is a noble aim; it’s just shame he makes such a terrible hash of the attempt.