Accepted paper:

Normalising precarity: high-skilled labourers' workplace experiences in East Kent


Daniela Peluso (University of Kent)
Jessica Lucas

Paper short abstract:

This research explores how various forms of work-related precarity and crisis as destabilizing processes, are extended to, experienced, coped with and talked about by high-skilled labourers in terms of their workplace practices and well-being.

Paper long abstract:

We most often recognise precarity and crisis when they are elsewhere or 'other' - particularly in the persons of migrants, refugees and low-skilled labourers. Our current fieldwork in East Kent alternatively focuses on high-skilled labourers' and emphasizes how precarity alongside notions of crisis should also be examined 'at home' where they are easily guised by the everyday practical survival skills of peoples and organisations, and become normalised to the extent that precarity and crises are no longer recognised as such. This presentation will discuss how peoples' everyday practices of workplace life mitigate against precarity and crises inherent to current workplace environments, while also normalising such predicaments. Corporations, institutions and other organisations, particularly in conditions of economic recession and neoliberal market reform, are increasingly passing risk onto employees through such mechanisms as short-term contracts, reduced benefits, increased expectations and the possibility of downsizing and redundancy. In some cases this may lead to major restructuring and subsequent redundancies while in others it may lead to streamlining with increases in individual workloads. We suggest that the ongoing upheaval of workers, in one form or another, as businesses consistently reinvent themselves in the face of economic conditions, fuels what has become a continuous state of precarity and crisis. With rising job insecurity, employees face workplace environments that have become increasingly unstable and stressful. Our current research examines how formal and informal practices shape precarity and how high-skilled labourers, individually and collectively, cope with their workplace lives as precarity and crisis become 'ways of living'.

panel P30
The uncertain bodily relations of contemporary economic practice