Revisiting precarity, with care: productive and reproductive labour in the era of flexible capitalism

Mariya Ivancheva, Kathryn Keating

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This article seeks to reconsider the concept of precarity by bringing in the discussion of care. An increased academic interest in the subject of precarity and precarious working conditions in advanced, post-industrial economies is often premised on the false binary of precarity-stability. While stable working and living conditions have historically been a privilege of a minority of autonomous individuals, engaged in productive work, free from direct dependence or dependents, women and marginalised groups are often made more precarious, as their highly exploitable labour assets are not given any, or certainly not an equal value. And while stability at work can destabilize precarious lives of people with care responsibilities and marginalized groups, who need flexibility in order to navigate their lives, subjecting the affective domain to the principles of the market does not offer an effective solution to the inequalities between productive and reproductive labour. The article works on three different levels – the critique of ethnocentrism and androcentrism of the concept of precarity, the introduction of precarious living conditions into the discussion of precarious labour, and the insistence on the necessity to insert solidarity, care and love back into our workplaces as a way to resist capitalist competitiveness and alienation. We also warn against the risk of such care labour being exploited by a next cycle of capitalist appropriation. Reviewing a range of empirical studies, we explore the ways in which care destabilizes the neat boundaries between precarity and stability. We argue that repositioning care as a central activity in all human production and reproduction, both outside paid labour and inside it, allows us to see more clearly potential venues of exploitation and liberation within the predicament of precarity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-282
JournalEphemera: Critical Dialogues on Organization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2021


  • precarity
  • gender
  • care
  • inequality
  • capitalism
  • Intersectionality
  • resistance


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