Working through (mis)recognition: understanding vulnerability as ambivalence in precarious worker subjectivity

Francisco Valenzuela, Constantine Manolchev, Steffen Böhm*, Celal Cahit Agar

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Most workers around the world are part of the precariat, characterized by non-permanent, informal, short-term, low-pay, low-skill, and insecure jobs. While there have been many socio-economic critiques of the negative impacts of precarity on workers, the literature has increasingly asked how precarious workers actually live their lives and how their subjectivities are produced on a daily basis. We contribute to this literature by providing a psychosocial account of the ambivalent experiences of precarious workers. We contend that the interplay of recognition and misrecognition plays a crucial role, as the vulnerable, working subject becomes entangled in a complex web of recognizability. We present insights from 104 in-depth interviews, providing a Lacanian analysis of how precarious workers develop unconscious attachments to neoliberal values that are central to the logic of precarity. Understanding this ambivalence helps us develop a more nuanced view of an ethics of precarious workers’ vulnerability.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages31
    JournalHuman Relations
    Early online date10 Aug 2023
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Aug 2023


    • Ambivalence
    • Butler
    • Lacan
    • Precarity
    • Subjectivity
    • Vulnerability


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