General Theory of the Precariat

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* Alex Foti, General Theory of the Precariat—Great Recession, Revolution, Reaction, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2017.

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"From the fast-food industry to the sharing economy, precarious work has become the norm in contemporary capitalism, like the anti-globalization movement predicted it would. This book describes how the precariat came into being under neoliberalism and how it has radicalized in response to crisis and austerity. It investigates the political economy of precarity and the historical sociology of the precariat, and discusses movements of precarious youth against oligopoly and oligarchy in Europe, America, and East Asia. Foti cover the three fundamental dates of recent history: the financial crisis of 2008, the political revolutions of 2011, and the national-populist backlash of 2016, to presents his class theory of the precariat and the ideologies of left-populist movements. Building a theory of capitalist crisis to understand the aftermath of the Great Recession, he outlines political scenarios where the precariat can successfully fight for emancipation, and reverse inequality and environmental destruction. Written by the activist who put precarity on the map of radical thinking, this is the first work proposing a complete theory of the precariat in its actuality and potentiality." (

About the author

Alex Foti is an editor, essayist and activist based in Milano. He was among the founders of ChainWorkers and EuroMayDay, early instances of the self-organization of precarious workers in Europe. Trained in economics, sociology, and history at Bocconi, the New School and Columbia, he has written several articles and books, including Anarchy in the EU: Grande Recessione e movi.menti pink, black, green in Europa (2009).


Michel Bauwens:

(a very provisional evaluation after reading the first 40 pages, roughly ch. 1 and 2)

I'm currently reading the book, and there are some surprising aspects to it:

  • the author sees the precariat as a 'class in formation'
  • the author advocates a reformist outcome within capitalism, i.e. a new regulation of capitalism but calls for growth to allow for redistribution, recognizing that this may class with green objectives
  • he calls for an alliance of the precariat and the underclass against the traditional working class seen as allied to national-populism (he calls for social populism as an alternative)
  • there is relative little connection to be seen in this book between the precariat and commoning/commons, though Foti calls for expanding commons-based peer production within a capitalist

reformation process and with CBPP seen as distinct from market and state production