Home » employment » Marx’s Theory of Working-Class Precariousness Its Relevance Today

Marx’s Theory of Working-Class Precariousness Its Relevance Today


Worker precariousness has become a major issue globally.
Much of this, however, is divorced from the central role that this concept
played in Marx’s critique of political economy. This article traces the
notion of precarious labor back to its classical roots in historical
materialism, including Marx’s general law of accumulation and his reserve
army of labor conception. . A look at the meaning of “precarious work” by R. Jamil Jonna and John Bellamy Foster

In The Condition of the Working Class in England, Engels wrote:

Every new advance brings with it loss of employment, want, and suffering, and in a country like England, where, without that, there is usually a ‘surplus population,’ to be discharged from work is the worst that can befall the operative. And what a dispiriting, unnerving influence this uncertainty of his position in life, consequent upon the unceasing progress of machinery, must exercise upon the worker, whose lot is precarious enough without it…
in his famous lecture “Useful Work versus Useless Toil,” first delivered in 1883 and later incorporated into his 1888 book Signs of Change, Morris wrote of “the precariousness of life among the workers” resulting from the tendency “to increase the number of the ‘reserve army of labor.’” The monetary contributions that workers made to trade unions were an extra charge that workers had to pay out of their wages simply to combat “precariousness of…employment,” against which organized labor was the only defense.
…Today the field of operation of Marx’s general law of accumulation spans the entire world. The struggle of labor, as thinkers such as Marx, Engels, and Morris ascertained in the nineteenth century, and Hymer recognized even more fully in the late twentieth century, must therefore be international. Labor precariousness ebbs and flows with the global reserve army of labor.

1 Comment

  1. […] special issue of the Global Labour Journal discusses Standing’s concept and where we are […]


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