political theorist at the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies (eipcp) , based in Berlin, and member in the editorial board of the book series. Isabell Lorey is a political theorist at the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies (eipcp), and an editor of transversal texts. She is Professor of. Years of remodelling the welfare state, the rise of technology, and the growing power of neoliberal government apparatuses have established a society of.

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The precarious represents both the condition and the effect of domination ksabell security in historically different ways. In the broadest sense, it can be described as insecurity and vulnerability, as uncertainty and endangerment. The counterpart of the precarious is usually protection, political and social immunization against everything recognized as endangerment.

To unfold these theses, I would like to distinguish three dimensions of the precarious: Precariousness does not denote an anthropological constant, no trans-historical state of isabekl human, but rather a condition proper to both human and non-human living beings. Precariousness denotes the dimension of an existential common of living beings; it involves an ineluctable endangerment of bodies that cannot be prevented, not only because they are mortal, but also specifically because they are social.

The second dimension of the precarious, precarityis to be considered as a category of order that denotes the effects of different political, social and legal compensations for a general precariousness. This dimension of the precarious covers naturalized relations of domination, through which belonging to a group is attributed or denied to individuals. Precarity denotes social positionings of insecurity, yet the term implies neither the modes of subjectivation nor the agency of those so positioned.

The third dimension of the precarious is the dynamics of governmental precarization. It refers to modes of governing since the emergence of industrial-capitalist conditions and cannot be separated izabell occidental modern societies from bourgeois self-determination.

Governmental precarization means not only destabilization through wage labor, but also a destabilization of ways of living and hence of bodies. Understanding precarization as governmental makes it possible to problematize the complex interactions of an instrument of governing with conditions of economic exploitation isabelll modes of subjectivation in their ambivalence between subjugation and empowerment. A governmental perspective allows for lordy to be considered not only in its repressive, striating forms, but also in its ambivalent productive moments, as they arise through techniques of self-government.

None of the three dimensions appears alone, but rather always in relations logey are differently posited historically. What can principally be said about the relationality between precariousness and precarity is that it evokes different forms of lorry.

The socio-ontological level is constructed as a threat, from which a political community must protect, immunize some. This distinguishes liberal governmentality to a very high degree. In isabeell, precarization is in the midst of a process of normalization, in which liberal ordering patterns of precarity continue to exist in a modified form, but existential precariousness can no longer be shifted entirely through the construction of dangerous Others and prevented as precarity; instead it is actualized in the individualized governmental precarization of who has been normalized in neoliberalism.

In her book Frames of WarJudith Butler offers initial ideas. Following her book of essays Precarious Lifeshe continues to pursue the political-philosophical question of when a life is considered grievable and therefore liveable.

Although her ontological and existential concept of precariousness, inspired by Emmanuel Isabel, already entered the discussions of precarization as a political concept through Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter in[3] the extent to which her ideas can be continued is first evident in Frames of War.

Within only isablel few pages, in the introduction to Frames of WarButler first introduces a second concept alongside precariousness: Butler conceptualizes the general precariousness of life, the vulnerability of lorye body, not simply as a threat or a danger, which must necessarily be safeguarded against. She argues in favor of korey reproducing the fear of precariousness and thus supporting traditional modern logics of domination, but rather conversely to posit the lack of recognition of fundamentally precarious korey as the starting point for analyzing relations of domination.

Precariousness as existential precariousness designates what constitutes life in general — both human and non-human. Butler formulates an ontology that cannot be lordy detached from social and political conditions.

These conditions enable historically specific modes of being, make it possible for bodies to survive in a certain way, which would not be viable without being embedded in social, political and legal circumstances. And at the same time, it is precisely these circumstances or conditions that endanger life. For this reason, according to Butler, it is important to focus on the political decisions and social practices, through which some lives are protected and others are not.

Precariousness becomes extensive at birth, because survival depends from the beginning on social networks, on sociality and the work of others. The fundamental social dependency of a living being due to its vulnerability, due to the impossibility of a wholly autonomous life, also highlights — going beyond Butler — the eminent significance of reproductive work. Because life is precarious, it is crucially dependent on care and reproduction.


At the same isablel, shared precariousness is also the condition that exposes us to others, that makes every body, every life fundamentally dependent on others. This social interdependence can express itself both as concern and care or as violence. The assumption that life, because it is precarious and endangered, because it is exposed to an existential vulnerability, must be or even could be legally or otherwise entirely protected and secured, isabelo nothing other than a fantasy of omnipotence.

Living bodies can never iisabell completely protected, specifically because they are permanently exposed to social and political conditions, under which life remains precarious. The conditions that enable life are, at the same time, exactly those that uphold it as precarious. Butler underscores the rapport between precariousness, precarity and domination.

She emphasizes the break that Hobbesian state theory signified for occidental modernity, conceiving the commonly shared sameness of precariousness primarily as a threat: Precarity as the hierarchized difference in insecurity arises from the segmentation, the categorization of isabekl precariousness.

isabelp The classification of social-ontological sameness produces inequality. Precarity can therefore be understood as a functional effect arising from the political and legal regulations that are specifically supposed to protect against general, existential precariousness.

From this perspective, domination means the attempt to safeguard some from existential precariousness, and at the same time, privileged protection is based on a differential distribution of the precarity of all those who are different and considered less worthy of protection.

Let us now clarify the preconditions, in order to understand why it is insufficient for the problematization and analysis of current neoliberal forms of precarization to speak of precarity as inequality.

Rather, the different modes of governing must be taken into consideration, which is why I speak of governmental precarization.

Isabell Lorey – ICI Berlin

Under liberal governmentality Foucault covers the techniques of governing that began to prevail in several European societies by the end of isbaell eighteenth century, supported by the pillars of capitalism and the political and legal self-government of the citizens.

What distinguishes modern liberal forms of governmentality is that the governability of each and every individual of a population is always also made possible by the way that he or she governs themself.

The art of governing, according to Foucault, consists in conducting conducts. The power of governing is not one that is executed solely repressively from above. In acting, they participate in the way they are governed. Specifically through the way in which they conduct themselves, govern themselves, individuals become socially, politically and economically controllable and regulable. The active participation of each individual in the reproduction of governing techniques, however, does not serve only subjugation.

Self-conduct does not necessarily fulfill dominant discipline and subordination. In the ambivalence between subjugation and empowerment, self-government can always also enable immanent struggles over the manner of conducting. Liberal governmentality needs not only a certain form of freedom, but also mechanisms of security.

Within the framework of its social welfare state paradigm of isabelk, liberal governmentality was still based on multiple forms of precarity as inequality through Othering: At the same time, beginning in the nineteenth century, economic subjectivation and self-government did not take place independent from social techniques and institutions of assurance, which were intended to minimize social insecurity and to keep the risk of unemployment, illness, accident and social exclusion calculable for more and more people from the national majority.

Precarization has long since arrived in the so-called social middle. Precarious living and working conditions are increasingly normalized at a structural level and thus become an important instrument of isabeell. Consequent to the normalization of precarization, the society we currently live in is by no means an insecurity society, it is indeed still a security society, but it is one that can be controlled through social insecurity.

The state is not withdrawing from all formerly fundamental security institutions. Security in neoliberalism, however, no longer needs the extent of liberal social welfare state techniques of protection. Instead, the state increasingly limits itself to police and military security discourses and practices, which in turn operate more and more with control and surveillance techniques. Especially migrant Others must demonstrate with conforming integration that they may belong to the collective of those who are still minimally assured, otherwise they can be declared a security risk.

But in neoliberalism, the dispositive between freedom and security is shifted even more fundamentally. When primarily internal security discourses correlate with normalized social insecurity, then freedom and insecurity form the new couple of neoliberal governmentality: The process of normalizing precarization does not mean equality in insecurity, inequalities are not abolished. Neoliberal logic llorey good reasons not to want to end inequality, because it plays with hierarchized differences and governs on this basis.


Yet the focus of this logic of governing is not mainly on the regulation of fixed identitary differences. In neoliberal governing through precarization as insecurity, at the level of self-government a special mode of subjectivation of anxiety enters the foreground. In the current dynamic of governmental precarization, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between an abstract anxiety over existential precariousness fear that a body, because it is mortal, cannot be made invulnerable and a concrete fear in the politically and economically induced precarization fear of unemployment or of not being able to pay iszbell or health care even with employment ; both of these negative worries overlap.

Isabwll Paolo Virno writes:. What we have, then, is a complete overlapping of fear and anxiety.

State of Insecurity

If I lose my job, of course I am forced to confront a well defined danger, one which gives rise to a specific kind of dread; but this real danger is immediately colored by an unidentifiable anxiety. There is virtually no longer any reliable protection against what cannot be foreseen, planned, what is contingent. Through the removal and remodeling of collective assurance systems, every form of independence disappears in the face of the dangers of precariousness and precarization; also those that were previously assured at the cost of national and global Others, lose social protection.

From everyone now, regardless of gender, class or origin, an individualized risk management is osabell, with which a precariousness that cannot be assured can be actualized in different ways. The overlapping of anguish of precariousness and fear in precarization is evident in the unreasonable demand of privatizing risks. Consequently, a neoliberal individualized self-government and self-responsibility is usabell confronted with existential precariousness in a new way.

Coupled with social, political and economic precarization, the privatization of risks and their prevention means for many nothing other than the individualization of precariousness. In the neoliberal dynamic of governmental precarization, the illusion of individual security is maintained specifically through the anxiety over being exposed to existential vulnerability. In governmental subjectivations, however, the demands of a preventative, individualist self-protection, this self-immunization in precarization, are more affirmed than questioned.

This transformation of labor is not exclusively characterized by a growing capitalization of social life, but rather in affective contact with others also by the production of new socialities. That precarity is spreading rather than minimizing means, according to Butler, that the ontological sameness of precariousness is not recognized and is therefore no affirmative starting point for politics.

For this reason, Butler calls upon especially left-wing politics to recognize commonly shared precariousness and ixabell orient normative obligations of legal equality and rights to loorey protection to this, in order to minimize inequality in precarity. The recognition of commonly shared precariousness could then go hand in hand with the recognition of the connection with others and thus — this is the next step that Butler does not emphasize in this way — with a greater valuing of care and reproduction work.

In this way, the connection with others, ineluctable sociality, would become the foundation for the political, rather than an individualized independence that must fend off the negatively connoted dependency of others. But is it sufficient to remain within juridical logic and demand rights to protection and the recognition of an ontological precariousness common to all? Is it not also necessary to break open the binarity of security and protection on the one side and the dangerously precarious on the other?

The relations lprey Butler posits only marginally and not yet systematically take into consideration practices of self-government and political struggles.

Isabell Lorey

Precariousness as ontology and precarity as identitary positioning primarily emphasize the aspects of being exposed and subjugation. Yet precarization goes beyond this and is in its governmental dimension decidedly productive: When precarization becomes a normalizing instrument of governing and thus has to be understood as a mode of existence across all groups and classes, then the conviction prevails again and again in the European movements of the precarious, such as the EuroMayDay or the Intermittents in France, [29] that social and political struggles should not take part in separating and hierarchizing differentiations.

In order not to newly segment, separate and individualize the diversely precarious, critical discourses and resistive practices in the context of precarization in the past decade have repeatedly concentrated on what the precarious have in common in all their differences.

Their becoming-common is not exhausted in stating socio-ontological sameness, but is instead accompanied by ongoing explorations of what can be considered as common. Elemente einer politischen TheorieZurich: Being Singular Pluraltrans. Stanford University Press