A Hauntology of Precarity

Lately, I’ve been trying to clarify the meaning of the precarious condition. So, I started collecting a series of definitions of the terms "precarity", "precarious" and "precariat". Like the one by Guy Standing on The Guardian, which aptly emphasizes the act of feeling something ("The precariat consists of those who feel their lives and identities are made up of disjointed bits"). Or the one by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, who focuses on the inability to grasp, to understand ("Precarious is person who is able to know nothing about one’s own future").

Read the rest

 

Trentenne precario si suicida

Un trentenne precario si ammazza lasciando alle spalle una lettera aperta. Per quel che ne so potrebbe addirittura essere falsa, ma la rabbia e la disillusione che essa esprime fanno indubbiamente parte della realtà collettiva. Può una lettera anonima, magari addirittura falsa, diventare un manifesto generazionale? Perchè no? Non viviamo in ogni caso di fiction e di astrazioni come la carriera, il “personal brand”, il debito? La lettera può pure essere falsa, ciò non toglie che sia comunque reale.

Il tono è drammatico, senza speranza. Tuttavia i commenti dei miei coetanei risultano ancor più desolanti. Quelli che si scusano per il proprio cinismo si sbagliano. Ciò che orienta il senso comune non è il cinismo, bensì una forma di darwinismo sociale denso di paternalismo. Una prospettiva del genere può soltanto inquadrare un lucido –seppur disperato– atto di protesta nella categoria del disturbo mentale. Tale interpretazione è a dir poco necessaria poiché se si dovesse ammettere che non si tratta di un gesto folle, ci si troverebbe costretti ad accettare il fatto che a essere folle è il sistema di valori dominante.

Read the rest

 

Generatie B – A No-Bullshit Show about the Bullshit Job Generation

Recently presented at the IFFR in Rotterdam, Generatie B (2017) portrays a near future in which the credit rating of Belgium drops from AA+ to B. The TV show is set in Bruxelles, where a job that is not a bullshit one seems impossible to find. And the bullshit ones truly live up to their name, like a gig in a call center where employees are required to speak with Indian people, simulating their English accent. After a shift that rigorously takes place at night, the main character can finally go to his rented sofa, since a room would be too expensive. This state of affairs recalls even too closely the case of the United Nation intern who had to live in a tent because of the steep rents in Geneva. As in the best tradition of tactical media, David Hyde’s action was a fiction, but a convincing and therefore scary one, exactly like Generatie B not-so-far future.

Read the rest

 

Squatting the Continuous Office

Bea Fremderman, Kafka Office (2013)

The use of mobile phone testifies the way in which cognitive work has slipped out its canonical environment –the office– to become an uninterrupted presence in our lives. Work that exists both as actuality (the email we’re replying to) and as potentiality (the red badge notifying that there are still emails to read). Clearly, there have been some antecedents, such as the laptop and, before that, the desktop computer. Even with the telephone, work outside the office was possible. However, the mobile phone represents a qualitative shift since it radicalizes the mobility and ubiquity of work.

Read the rest

 

Knowing Nothing

How should we conceive precarity? What characterizes this condition? I republish here a definition of precarity found in the glossary of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s Precarious Rhapsody (2009). Berardi’s definition seems to confirm the idea that precarity is first and foremost a matter of perception and subsequent emotions, it is a kind of feedback loop between the two. Material deprivation and poverty play a central role in the precarious experience but they are not its determinant feature. When they aren’t really part of one’s life, they still function as a presage, a presentiment, that in turn affects daily life and decision making. Bifo describes the inability to imagine one’s own future and the constant presence of anxiety. Clearly, this state of affair is not exceptional anymore. In order to change it, the precariat needs to formulate and articulate a series of demands, but how to do so when you can’t foresee your own life in a year from now? In other words, how to act against precarity if your time and thoughts are occupied by the state of being precarious? It seems that one needs stability in order to address precarity.

Read the rest

 

Ironic Attachment – If Irony Feels Ironic

A few days ago, at La Scuola Open Source, one of the things I discussed was the relationship between irony and precarity. Since it’s a common artistic rhetorical tool, questions about irony are frequent. Whenever this happens, I think of two opposite arguments about it. The first is by Mark Fisher, who in Capitalist Realism identifies irony as the typical expression of the post-modern condition, in which there is no way of engaging with societal issues. The second is by Franco ‘bifo’ Berardi, who in Heroes declares that irony must oppose the tragic seriousness of life under semiocapitalism.

Read the rest