e-flux Conversations has been closed to new contributions and will remain online as an archive. Check out our new platform for short-form writing, e-flux Notes.

e-flux conversations

The Precarious Minimum

The New Inquiry has published an excerpt from political theorist Isabell Lorey’s new book The State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious (Verso). In the excerpt, Lorey notes that as the Western welfare state deteriorates, “security” does not in fact disappear. Rather, it changes form:

Precarious living and working conditions are currently being normalized at a structural level and have thus become a fundamental instrument of governing. The result of the normalization of precarization, however, is certainly not that we are currently living in an insecurity society; we still live in a security society, but it is one that has become governable through precarization. The state is not withdrawing from all formerly fundamental institutions of safeguarding. In neoliberalism, however, safeguarding no longer needs the extent of liberal welfare-state techniques of protection. Instead the state increasingly limits itself to discourses and practices of police and military safeguarding, which in turn increasingly operate with disciplinary control and surveillance techniques.

This shift, according to Lorey, represents a change in the “fundamental dispositive of liberalism,” with precarious working and living condition overtaking even the formerly stable middle-class. But even as precarity spreads across social classes, this does not mean that inequality disappears:

The distinction between the liberal, Fordist normal and the precarious that deviates and is separated from it has long since become impossible. The traditional boundaries between the social positionings of the normal and the precarized are dissolving: precarization becomes a normality with new inequalities.

Visit The New Inquiry to read the full excerpt.