THE AGE OF PRECARITY

Joia de Jong

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5 thoughts on “THE AGE OF PRECARITY

  1. Payal Arora says:

    On behalf of Camila

    I really like that this proposal shows a problem deeply interned in labour, but that is also related to the political system, and that has repercussions on the social life of people. I think it differs from most of the videos presented for this course because it has a rather critical view of modernity and technology, showing a negative side of the digital age. Moreover, this is a very interesting topic to discuss since even the business world has not yet realised the problem of the precarization of digital work, and it is possible to see through this video that this will be a major concern in the future.
    This also demonstrates that this research question has undoubted social relevance, but also academic relevance since sociology has historically been concerned with solving the problems that appear in the relationship between individuals and work. Furthermore, I find very insightful that you mention that this is not only a problem that attacks the lower social classes, but that the effects of insecurity affect the whole social fabric, since this only helps to strengthen the relevance of the problem for actors with different social background, which may help to find more people interested in funding your research project.
    Finally, I think it is also important that you stressed that precarity of work extends from the labour system to the personal sphere, since people can find themselves working at any time and in any place, subtracting part of their personal time. The omnipresence of work in everyday life undoubtedly leads to question whether digital work can generate a new version of the alienation of the worker from their Gattungswesen (Marx & Engels, 2009). After all, it seems that this kind of work becomes a huge investment of time and energy to just “put one foot in the door” of this business, which again makes it important to question the nature of the work.

    Along with raising this research question, I would like to know how you think we should face this problem. Are companies proposing to improve the conditions of remote workers? Are there successful practices that suggest solutions to this problem?

    If you have identified the problem of insecurities in the labour market, especially for creative workers, where the abundance of colleagues seems to play against them, it seems crucial to me that you could focus on finding solutions for their work. For example, what does Ovidiu Platon propose? Because he acknowledges that companies seek to employ workers from underdeveloped countries because their labour is more economical, but, how doesn’t this means that he has greater chances to get a job than a creative colleague in a developed country? Isn’t the problem of oversupply more important than the offshoring of labour? How can you resolve the weaknesses of creative work when negotiating? What are the solutions that creative workers see from their trenches?

    Secondly, your proposal inspires one to look for the good and bad in the digital era. Consequently, I find it interesting to critically question the benefits and harms of this problem: Is the offshoring or labour to developing countries a negative problem for developing countries? When Ovidiu Platon talks about having foreign employers, what are the reasons that could make this a problem for him? Is it not better for people in developing countries that companies look for individuals outside developed countries and give them the job?
    I think this is a fundamental problem that must be addressed when we talk about offshoring or labour since it seems to me that the ambiguity of the benefits and harms of these job offers is something very tricky, and far for being solved. For example, we see that it is not forbidden to employ people in India for the textile industry, despite all the commotion that has caused inhuman treatment and unethical pay. Then, why this offshoring of labour survives? Is it because maybe eradicating these companies can be even more detrimental to individuals? But then, shouldn’t be agreed internationally the need to regulate these working conditions? I believe your research can contribute to this discussion.

    Finally, you also mention that creative work usually involves the risk of having to pass a “quality test” of the professional level at the beginning of each new job, so often they have to lower prices at the beginning to make themselves known, and win the trust of employers. Now, is this a problem of the digital market? Or is it a problem of creative work? Are the curricula, or in this case portfolios, sufficient to hire people? Finally, how can we solve the precariousness of digital work?
    Perhaps it would be interesting to explore whether the same digital world offers solutions to address this problem. Just as this problem has inspired you as a researcher to create this video, there must be people who have tried to create solutions to this from the field of technology or the creative work itself, since it affects them directly. And indeed, there are apps that could address some issues of this problem. For example, from the economic point of view, there are wage negotiation apps such as “Negotiation360”, “Jobjuice” and “How to negotiate” (HBS Working Knowledge, 2015; Jobjuice LLC., 2017; Negotiation360 ™ IOS App, 2017, Udemy Inc., 2013). With this example, I want to say that it would be great for your discussion to look for empirical cases of initiatives that seek to tackle the problem of precarious work, even if in this you discover that all of them have failed, or that none solves the problem of creative workers directly.

    In summary, it seems to me that any research question that has great social relevance like this one should consider finding solutions to the questions that are raised so that it goes beyond the distinction and analysis of the problem. This would make this research project also serve as a concrete proposal to improve work in the underdeveloped countries and to help solve this concern that you identify in the existential, financial and social insecurity that is the product of the “flexibilization of labour market”.

    I hope this comment will motivate you to come up with solutions since this would be a great contribution to the discussion of the precarization of labour.

    Best of luck with your final essay!
    Camila.

    REFERENCES

    HBS Working Knowledge. (2015, August 03). Want To Improve Your Negotiation Skills? There’s An App For That. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2015/03/11/want-to-improve-your-negotiation-skills-theres-an-app-for-that/#5a11beb93625

    Jobjuice LLC. (2017). Jobjuice Salary Negotiation App | iPad, iPhone & Android. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://www.jobjuice.com/salary-app-landing

    Negotiation360™ iOS App. (2017). Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://negotiation3-0.com/negotiation360/

    Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2009). The economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist manifesto. Prometheus Books.

    Udemy Inc. (2013). Negotiation360™ iOS App. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from http://negotiation3-0.com/negotiation360/

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  2. Payal Arora says:

    Dear Joia,
    I am impressed by your style of delivery and the powerful digital storytelling techniques you employed including the color scheme, the music, the pace of delivery and the use of rhetoric to gain the attention of the audience. I liked the way in which you started this video -powerful hook no doubt. Regarding the content, I can see you chose a topic that is complex and difficult to address as it is at once both philosophical and pragmatic given the trends in today’s digital age. Yet, you used your resources skillfully, structuring your argument along nuanced concepts such as governmentality etc. which made it rich and thoughtful. I noticed that your approach does underplay the power struggles when you claim that precarity is beyond class – there is just as much research on demonstrating that the nature of this form solidifies and perpetuates inequality and class divides even more than ever while of course everyone does experience it in some form or the other. So by equating it to an omnipresent condition of life in general, it negates the fact that this state of being can be empowering or debilitating based on our position of power in the larger rubric in society. Either way, while I may not agree with this stand fully, I respect that you made a compelling argument that gave us the alternative perspective for which I commend you.

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  3. Joia de Jong says:

    Dear Payal,

    Thank you very much for your feedback! It is very useful, as it illustrates that I further need to sharpen my understanding of precarity. I was similarly struggling with a classless precarity, as I have mostly been involved with Marxism. Yet, I found many articles arguing against the precariat, which suggests some kind of dangerous, precarious class in society. Perhaps, I should sharpen my argument in the future, because I do believe that some people are more affected than others, while at the same time I think that precarity has increased for every member in society. This does not take away that some people remain more privileged than others. Thanks again.

    Best wishes,
    Joia

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