A democratic critique of precarity

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Abstract

The term ‘precarity’ has become increasingly popular as a way to capture the material and psychological vulnerability resulting from neoliberal economic reforms. This article demonstrates that such precarity is incompatible with democracy. More specifically, it makes two arguments. First, and inspired by Montesquieu’s analysis of ‘the principles’, or public commitments behind different forms of government, it argues that modern democracy is a sui generis form of government animated and sustained by a principle of shared responsibility. Second, it shows that this principle is negated by the neoliberal form of governing. The neoliberal policies currently operating in many democratic countries not only push ever more people into precarious conditions where they have to compete against each other for security and status; by displacing onto individuals a responsibility that ought to be shared and divided between citizens, they corrupt the core of democracy itself. The article thus suggests that precarity is problematic not only from the standpoint of social justice, as emphasized in earlier research, but also from the perspective of democracy. Precarity contradicts the ways of life that must be regenerated in order for a democratic form of government to sustain itself over time.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Discourse: A Developmental Journal of Research in Politics and International Relations
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes