Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman Talks About the Precariat

Zygmunt Bauman interviewed on the subject of the “precariat”:

The notion of precariat seems quite general and vague to many people. Who are therefore the precarians?

The “general” and “vague” character of the notion of precariat bothers people accustomed to the division of society into “classes” and, in particular, to the phenomenon of “proletariat” or its idea, which the concept of “precariat” should, in my conviction (but not only mine), replace in the analysis of social divisions. In comparison to its successor, proletariat appears indeed almost as an emblem of the “specific” and “concrete”…

How easy it was, when compared to precariat, to determine its content and limits… But the fluidity of composition is one of the features defining the phenomenon of precarity; one cannot get rid of that fluidity without making the notion of “precariat” analytically useless. […]

What issues do, in your opinion, differentiate precariat most distinctly from proletariat? To what extent can one connect the two notions? And finally: is precariat a social class?

Well, I have serious doubts about that. I would prefer to call precariat a social category. The mere similarity of situation is not enough to transform an aggregate of individuals bearing similar characteristics into a “class” – that is, into an integrated group willing to pursue common interests as well as proceeding to integrate and coordinate actions stemming from that will. If workplaces of the times of “solid modernity” were, irrespective of the kind of products manufactured, also the factories of social solidarity, liquid-modern workplaces are, irrespective of their business objectives, the producers of mutual suspicion and competitiveness.

Full Story: r-evolutions: Far Away from Solid Modernity (PDF)

(via [m])

See Also:

The Precariat – The new dangerous class

Temp Worker Nation: If You Do Get Hired, It Might Not Be for Long

Time Wars


  1. It seems the most important distinction is the precariat gets screwed even worse than the proletariat by corporations and government.

    • I wouldn’t necessarily say that. The working class precariat is going to get it worse than the professional-class precariat. And really, the professional class precariat (and I’d probably fall into this category myself) certainly has it better than the working poor. But I suppose that raises the question: is anyone in the working class, particularly the working poor, NOT part of the precariat at this point? Put another way: are there still proletariat who are NOT also precariat? One might argue that certain unionized blue collar laborers so far escape precarity, but I’m not so sure…

  2. Good point, but I got the impression that the precariat category encompasses the proletariat and even those lower on the social order. One could still argue that living conditions for precariats/proletariats today are better than near the start of the industrial revolution, but the percentage of the population who are salaried employees and overrall wealth disparity have both increased. Certain environmental impacts have also worsened.

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