Understanding the Precariat through Labour and Work


  • Guy Standing


This article sets out a framework for analysing the globalizing labour process, arguing that the old dualisms of ‘capital’ versus ‘labour’ and ‘formal sector’ versus ‘informal sector’ are inadequate and unhelpful. It begins by making conceptual distinctions between work and labour and between labour and labour power, and goes on to identify a globalizing class structure in which a ‘precariat’ is emerging as a potentially transformative new mass class. Denied so-called ‘labour rights’ and social entitlements that went with twentieth century industrial citizenship, the growing precariat needs new systems of regulation, social protection and redistribution. These should be based on work and occupation rather than subordinated labour, will require new forms of collective action and representation, and should seek to redistribute the key assets of twenty-first century tertiary societies, including income security, control of time, financial capital and the commons.