The political economy of vulnerability

by Arran James

In Judith Butler’s work, a consideration of the economic concept of precarity opens directly onto considerations of ontological vulnerability. Paige Sarlin has followed this route, and back again, to trace a concept of “vulnerable accumulation”. Here I reproduce a few sections of a definition of vulnerable accumulation:

The concept[1] of vulnerable accumulation accounts for and incorporates both economic and affective registers in its description of the processes and activity involved in forms of sociality that arise between people experimenting with social forms outside or in opposition to market forces (and without financial remuneration).

Like capital itself, vulnerable accumulation and vulnerability are un-equally distributed across the globe. Various populations and formations are more susceptible to violence, enclosure, appropriation, monetization, dispossession, and destruction than others.

The vulnerability of being-in-common is both a weakness and a strength (see 5).
a. The fact of the accumulation of vulnerability exposes the assumption that forms of togetherness (and particularly, forms of togetherness that respect difference) are easy or simply emancipatory things. It seeks to name some of the paradoxes and difficulties of being-in-common.

Read in full here.