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A Political Theory of Precarious Work

Hickson, James (2020) A Political Theory of Precarious Work. PhD thesis, University of York.

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The increasing precariousness of working arrangements within advanced capitalist economies, such as that of the United Kingdom, has been the focus of much study within academic social science. This research has conveyed the empirical reality of zero-hours contract, temporary agency, gig economy, and other forms of precarious work, where one’s working patterns and income stream are unpredictable and insecure. However, there has so far been insufficient sustained consideration of the political significance of such working arrangements within contemporary labour markets. This thesis rectifies this, constructing a distinctly political theory of precarious work. I first consider how precarious work could be analysed within the leading schools of contemporary political thought – libertarianism, Rawlsian liberal egalitarianism, Marxism, and feminism – before explaining why a republican theory of precarious work most successfully captures the full political significance of such working arrangements. According to this republican theory, precarious working arrangements should be understood as generating specific forms of domination, both interpersonal and structural, that compromise individual liberty. Not only do precarious working arrangements convey particular employers with extraordinary levels of discretionary power over their employees, but they also serve to trap workers within a wider ecosystem of potential interference and dependence. Finally, I explore how this significant threat to freedom could be rectified practically through the construction of an economic republic. This would involve a combination of state regulation, effective exit rights, and institutionalised worker voice, in order to provide workers with the ‘antipower’ sufficient to confidently resist the kinds of domination associated with precarious working arrangements.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Politics (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.803690
Depositing User: Mr James Hickson
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2020 17:24
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2020 22:15
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/26696

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