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The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class Book Review

Guy Standing has made a deep research on the new fast growing class – the precariat, revealing the reasons of its formation, describing its objectives and line of development. The name of the book says that precariat is dangerous. So why is precariat a threat to society? Is this new class a victim or an aggressor? Why is it growing so fast? How can we assure its safety and what should we do to satisfy its requirements? Guy Standing answers these urgent questions in his book in detail, giving a reader a close view of the real situation in the society.

In first chapter Standing gives us a definition of what he calls the precariat: “The precariat could be described as a neologism that combines an adjective “precarious” and a related noun “proletariat”. In this book, the term is often used in this sense, though it has limitations.” (Standing, 2011)

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The new socio-economic group, described by Guy Standing in his book, appears to be a social stratum, a class-in-the-making, represented by temporary workers (including migrants), part-time employees, independent contractors, people working in call centers, interns and unemployed people, who have no hope of social integration. These people have no labour security and are forced to change job all the time, losing opportunity to make a career. Their income is precarious and depends on occasion and their own flexibility. Randomness of temporary jobs leaves no chance for precariatisised people to form their occupational identity, which leads to inability to develop their professional skills. Standing names the lack of community support in times of need as the precariat’s feature and also shows a common formula for all the precariat: ”their labour is instrumental (to live), opportunistic (taking what comes) and precarious (insecure).”

In the next chapter Standing aims to explain why the precariat is growing, naming such reasons as financial shock of 2008, the end of globalisation era, the pursuit of flexible labour relations, the shadow economy etc. As a result of financial shock of 2008 the army of precariat became much bigger. Many people lost not only their jobs, but a hope to find another one, the ability to pay off their debts and to provide their lives. It increased the wave of work-related suicides in many countries. People felt insecure, so the precariat started to grow. An important role in expanding the precariat has played a shadow economy. In conditions of de-industrialisation shadow economy developed much easier and faster, causing the growth of temporary workers, the contractors and part-time employees. Standing gives a statistic data on how low fell the employees’ loyalty and trust in employers in the United States after financial shock and the end of globalisation era. It gives a clear picture of how these factors affected the society, revealing the growth of the precariat as one of the consequences, and leaving no doubts about the reasons of this growth.

In third chapter called “Who Enters the Precariat?” Guy Standing tries to show us what social groups enter the precariat. Standing writes that it’s simply “everybody”. And this is how it really is. Everyone may become precariatisised, including women, youth, retired employees, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and released prisoners etc. Women have been displacing men causing the feminisation of labour markets. Old agers got back into labour markets, taking precariat jobs and pushing down opportunities for youth. Youth are faced with career-less prospects and status frustration, and if they wait for a better opportunity, they risk to be called lazy and irresponsible. People with disabilities and ex-cons are in the hardest conditions, they have almost no hope of making a career and increasing their profits. Standing tries to attract attention to these social groups, concentrating on their needs, their fragile social status, their fears and what danger they represent being abandoned and not brought to attention.

In the next chapter Standing talks about the most massive part of the precariat – the migrants. He describes how a migrant falls in a precarity trap, coming from a country where he had lower income and expectations which makes him more prepared to accept part-time, short-term or occupationally restrictive job. So the migrants willingly accept this kind of jobs, occupying a massive niche in the labour market. That increases the wave of negativity towards them. People think of migrants as dangerous aliens, they consider them as a threat to their jobs and ways of life. The outcome of these attitudes in country is harder conditions for entry.

In fifth chapter the author tells us about the hard conditions of precarious work. People get in a time squeeze, being always under the time stress. Because the jobs are mostly temporary, people are forced to look for another job all the time, because they have to pay their bills. And that’s a lot of stress. Not knowing if you will have something to eat or where to live the next month is a big stress too. Guy Standing openly says of it as a serious problem, that requires a serious consideration and urgent solution.

The last two chapters of the book mostly consist of describing the possible ways of solving the problem of the precariat. There is also a warning of possible consequences of not paying attention of the community to this new class.

The problems brought up by Guy Standing in his book are urgent and may cause the massive resonance in the world community. These important questions require a detailed analysis on many levels and need to be openly discussed. The precariat is not just an abstract term; it is people who live among us. The last line of the book is very accurate and worth citing: “The precariat is not victim, villain or hero – it is just a lot of us.”

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