Guy Standing: “The Precariat: Today’s Transformative Class?”

Guy Standing: “The Precariat: Today’s Transformative Class?”

Guy Standing has just posted an article on the Great Transition Initiative website. Titled “The Precariat: Today’s Transformative Class?”, the essay describes social evolution in the last few centuries and present-day neoliberal “rentier economy”, which has created the conditions to the rise of a new social class for which Standing has named the “precariat”.

Guy Standing defends that it will be through this new “precariat” that profound changes to humanity’s social organization will come about. First, because by not knowing stable employment, it does not believe jobs are the answer to insecurity, like many politicians on the Left tend to think. Jobs are, in this framework, representatives of an already falling hierarchical way of organization, which he considers contrary to human nature. Ancient societies – ex.: Greeks – for all their problems and prejudices, valued much more leisure than work, and so, nowadays, would make more sense to pursue knowledge and meaning, rather than endless consumption.

For this to come about, however, a new economic system must flourish. One that recognizes ecological limits and insures basic security for all. A profound philosophical shift lies at the heart of this process, and that’s one that ceases to consider each person as a separate individual – who to have something must own it, depriving others from it – to another where interdependency and sharing are the utmost values. From there, Standing recalls that the Commons are shared prosperity between humans and should be strengthened as a way to reverse decades of neoliberal enclosure, commodification, privatization and colonization.

He then devises a general idea on how the Commons should generate revenue for redistribution among all people, in a similar process adopted by some Social Funds around the world (ex.: Norwegian Pension Fund Global, the Alaskan Permanent Fund). That revenue would be derived, then, by taxing all those exploring Commons resources, such as land, the atmosphere, the rivers and oceans, even intellectual work. Since the Commons are, in principle, shared equally by all the commoners, it only makes sense to redistribute the Social Funds setup this way as an equal share to all of them, unconditionally. That’s where basic income ste ps in, as a crucial and structural piece of social policy, within this new kind of social contract. This will, according to Guy Standing, provide basic security for all, strengthen social solidarity and shift work time and energy towards reproductive, sharing and resource-conserving activities (away from resource-depleting ones).


More information at:

Guy Standing, “The Precariat: Today’s Transformative Class?”, Great Transition Initiative, October 2018

VIDEO: Guy Standing on the impending revolt of the precariat

VIDEO: Guy Standing on the impending revolt of the precariat

Photo: “Thomas Heatherwick – Thames Garden Bridge” CC-BY-2.0 準建築人手札網站

The controversial Garden Bridge is a proposed privately-owned bridge over the River Thames in London, intended to open in 2018. According to the “Lady of the Future”, its construction was a triggering event to the Precariat Revolt; listen to the lecture below to learn more…   

As previously announced in Basic Income News, BIEN cofounder Guy Standing (SOAS, University of London) was invited to speak on the “politics of utopia” at Oktoberdans, Norway’s most prestigious contemporary dance festival, on October 25, 2016.

He was asked to speak without notes and standing atop two pallets, creating the feel of a speaker’s corner:

Standing framed his talk as the received word of the “Lady of the Future”, who informed him about the precariat revolt of 2017, which eventuated in a series of reforms beginning with basic income. Throughout his talk, he stressed the importance of the arts (e.g. their “subversive potential” and thus capacity to effect political change). Although adapted to the unique setting and audience, Standing drew from material in his latest book, The Corruption of Capitalism, as well as his previous works on the precariat.

Watch Standing’s complete performance, including Q&A, above.

WASHINGTON DC, US: BIEN cofounder Guy Standing to address “Challenge of Precarious Labor”

WASHINGTON DC, US: BIEN cofounder Guy Standing to address “Challenge of Precarious Labor”

The Albert Shanker Institute — a Washington DC-based nonprofit organization that promotes research and discussion related to education, work, and democracy — will be hosting a conference on “The Challenge of Precarious Labor” on Monday, December 5.

BIEN cofounder Guy Standing, widely known for his writings on the precariat (the class of precariously employed workers), will participate in the first panel, “The Political Economy of Precarious Labor”.

Themes of other panels include “Precarious Labor in Labor Law and Policy”, “Organizing Precarious Labor” and “Organizing Academic Precarious Labor”. Overall, the conference’s stated aims are to “develop a deeper understanding of changes in the political economy of global capitalism that have led the increasing prevalence of precarious work,” share experiences among those involved in organizing precarious labor, from the service sector and domestic work to adjuncts in higher education,” and “discuss how to address the rise of precarious work through law and public policy.”

The event will not be streamed live; however, it will be filmed, and videos will be available after the conference.

See the following page for a complete schedule and more information:

Reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan

Photo Credit: Enno Schmidt

Interview with Guy Standing: “Most unions have failed to respond to the needs and aspirations of the precariat”


Guy Standing, renowned economist, noted author and honorary president of BIEN, was recently interviewed by the Equal Times, a global media platform that focuses on work and social justice.

Guy Standing makes a forceful case for basic income that takes into account the current global conditions of the labor market and the economy. He draws on his vast wealth of knowledge and presents complex concepts in a clear and synthetic manner.

Standing argues that:

– Basic income is key to get people out of the poverty trap, as people experience few gains merely by moving from unemployment benefits to low-paying jobs.

– Trade unions’ opposition to basic income is misguided, as unions and workers would actually benefit from a basic income.

– The struggles for a minimum wage are a positive development, but a minimum wage does not guarantee the welfare of the growing number of people who are not formally employed.

– Evidence from projects in Africa and India indicates that people are more cooperative and more productive when given a basic income, contrary to fears that a basic income would reduce productivity.

– An unconditional basic income would be an effective tool to fight poverty in developing countries, whereas conditional forms of social assistance drive down wages and increase dependency and exploitation.

– Basic income is affordable. One way to finance it is to overhaul the existing benefit system, while also cutting subsidies and tax breaks to big corporations and rich people.

– Basic income is not a panacea, but an essential measure to improve the worsening conditions of the “precariat”, the growing class of people who have little or no prospects of finding a full-time permanent job in their lifetime.

Chris Burns interviews Guy Standing, “Most unions have failed to respond to the needs and aspirations of the precariat,” Equal Times, November 26, 2015.