Bruce Sterling assesses 2009

First, Sterling grimly runs through all the various potential threats we face in 2009.

So 2009 will be a squalid year, a planetary hostage situation surpassing any mere financial crisis, where the invisible hand of the market, a good servant turned a homicidal master, periodically wanders through a miserable set of hand-tied, blindfolded, feebly struggling institutions, corporations, bureaucracies, professions, and academies, and briskly blows one’s brains out for no sane reason.

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Then he runs through the opportunities we have:

We now come to the useful word “precarity,” which is part of the American lifestyle but distant from American politics. “Precarity” is, of course, the condition of existing precariously. The condition of losing one’s safety and security, of losing predictability and the ability to rationally plan ahead, the condition of being humiliated and in danger. […]

Normally Americans and Europeans fail to agree about “precarity”?—?Americans think their precarity is a kind of fluidity and dynamism, while Europeans are lazy featherbedders dawdling over two-hour lunches. But what’s certain is that, whatever its definition, precarity is now global. The wealthy and powerful?—?especially the wealthy and powerful?—?are precarious. They are being flung about like flotsam, and the precarity once reserved for blue-collar workers is now inside the corner office and the corporate boardroom as well.

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I first came across the term precarity last year when I found The Tarots of Precariomancy. It perfectly describes the nature of work in the US today. I’ve come to see precarity as inevitable, but certainly it would be nice to be free of.


  1. Yes it is disturbing to exsist in precarity; However in reality it does really allow one to fall for the common illusions of having control over external reality, and the belief that one is safe. The increased anxiety and dissonance even has the potential for great awakening in the mass populous to asking the BIG questions Who am I? What is the purpose of life? and it is great sutdy in the essetnial transitory nature of life as well as how one can be Mu-Ah that is to say selfless.

  2. Fucking boring. Sterling needs to pull his head out of his ass and quit living in the past.

    Precarity is only frightening to someone who has something to sell you, mainly because they’re trying to sell you something you don’t need, and they’re doing it to support their own existence.

    Guess what? For most of the people in the world outside the bubble reality in the US of A, precarity has been an everyday existence. For most of recorded history. Big fucking deal.

    The only reason to be afraid of precarity is if you have no survival skills beyond “Here’s my wallet!”, which sadly is most of the Americans I’ve come across.

    Grow up, Sterling. And quit pretending you have a twin in Italy, you’re not fooling anyone. You need to quit cribbing from Pynchon and go where the finger is pointing. I’d start studying up on useful skills like welding, engine repair and electrical wiring if I were you. If things are as bad as you say, that’s about the only three things that’ll get you by.

    Toodle Pip,


  3. khephret, yeah people who are worried about having enough money to feed their kids need to “grow up” and stop worrying. Thank you for your insightful comments about modernity.

  4. I think khepret was responding to another Bruce Sterling in another timeline. You’re going to have a lot of bleed-through comments, given the projects you’re messing around with.

  5. Heh. I think Kheperet was actually thinking that Sterling was complaining about precarity in his own life, rather than advocating for people who live with precarity.

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