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  • Author or Editor: Annalisa Murgia x
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Over the past decades, a number of EU member states have recorded large rises in the use of temporary employment. Young people are far more likely than other groups to be employed in precarious jobs, independently of their education and skills. In the midst of the global economic-financial crisis, in fact, the assault on the conditions of knowledge workers goes on, according to the different lines of the neoliberalistic logics, which juxtapose with the current precarisation processes like underpayment and misalignment between subjects’ educations and their working activities. How do young precarious knowledge workers recount their experiences? What relation holds between a high education level and the possibility of effectively deploying the competences and skills acquired? How do knowledge workers represent and deal with their precarious conditions? To answer these questions, this article proposes a definition of the concepts of ‘precarity’, ‘precariousness’ and ‘precariat’ and then focuses specifically on the precariousness experienced by young knowledge workers in Italy and the importance of investigating precarisation processes in light of their experiences. Hence, the present article discusses the invisible face of the conditions of young knowledge workers, which collides with the official face. The latter superficially presents them as ‘independent professionals’, although they increasingly experience conditions similar to those of dependent workers and at the same time suffer the effects of the further precarisation brought about by the crisis, but missing trade-unions support or political representation.

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This chapter identifies two main lines of inquiry among sociological approaches to precarious work: studies on ‘precarity’, which in the European context mainly focus on the erosion of standard employment relationships, and those on ‘precariousness’, which are more interested in the subjective experience that affects not only labour but the entire life of the subject. Using the results of a series of research projects as the starting point, this chapter discusses how precariousness is experienced and represented, including in light of digitalization processes during the pandemic. In particular, the precarious subject is conceptualized as a ‘precarious-enterprise worker’, impelled to become the sole person responsible for their destiny and to invest totally in the production of their subjectivity. By adopting a feminist perspective, a reflection is proposed on how potential forms of resistance to precariousness can be constructed through social relations based on affective and corporeal encounters with others.

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Critical Perspectives on Work, Subjectivities and Struggles

The words ‘precarity’ and ‘precariousness’ are widely used when discussing work, social conditions and experiences. However, there is no consensus on their meaning or how best to use them to explore social changes.

This book shows how scholars have mapped out these notions, offering substantive analyses of issues such as the relationships between precariousness, debt, migration, health and workers’ mobilisations, and how these relationships have changed in the context of COVID-19.

Bringing together an international group of authors from diverse fields, this book offers a distinctive critical perspective on the processes of precarisation, focusing in particular on the European context.

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This afterword draws together the content of the book by highlighting the relevance of studies of precarity in exploring contemporary social phenomena. It emphasizes the role of the theoretical approaches suggested in the book in understanding changes that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the transfer of risks to individuals, which are inherent in the public health response to the pandemic; extensive interventions of states into labour markets; claims of a withdrawal of workers from employment; the growing profile of digital technologies in organizing work; and the attempt by the precarious to establish new forms of agency and subjectivity.

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This chapter introduces the book collection. It outlines the manner in which ‘precarity’ and ‘precariousness’ have emerged as key terms in contemporary discussions of work, class, social conditions and subjectivities. Various prominent landmarks in discussions of these themes are identified, including contributions by Pierre Boudieu and Judith Butler, the broad sociology of work literature, debates around Guy Standing’s notion of a ‘precariat’ class, and views focused on novel forms of subjectivities. The book introduced by this chapter is based upon a series of critical interventions, without artificially attempting to shoehorn them into a common theoretical framework.

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