A woman’s refusal of work is never done

by Arran James

The group blog The disorder of things has a great post up at the moment on precarity and the possibility of a post-work future. Highly recommended, Here’s a couple excerpts:



Precarity is a recurrent and defining feature of life under capitalism. What is distinctive about precarity, in its present form, is that it started out as a takeover of the insurrectionist desires and democratic excess unleashed in the late 60s and 70s. The hot decade of the 70s witnessed a wave of worker “dissatisfaction” in all ranks of the labor force, the most militant examples being the feminist “wages against housework” and the autonomist “refusal of work.” In both cases, what was rejected was not the wholesale idea of work, but the subsumption of work to the one-dimensional logic of economic rationality, hollowing out work of its enchanted content and unalienated potential.


What interests me is how the social desire for flexible labor, that sentiment of “precarity-is-good,” can be reclaimed in a time when “the disappearance of work” is turning precarity into a ruthless mode of discipline and maybe even a health issue. (No wonder a large part of Bifo’s Soul at Work is on anxiety and depression). If we cannot return to old forms of regulation and securitization, could we perhaps push the contradictions of the present into a future where flexibility and contingency are an expression of security rather than a form of punishment?

The title of my post is just an attempt at wit, this isn’t an explicitly feminist piece (although reproductive labour is considered).