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Wed Mar 25, 2020, 02:19 PM

The coronavirus, social bonds and the 'crisis society'

The coronavirus has not only attacked vulnerable individuals—it has highlighted how Europe’s atrophying social ties leave a growing precariat exposed.


The world-renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz has rightly called our attention to the dramatic threats the coronavirus poses to everyone’s health and to the economy and society at large. He urges us to appreciate once more the important role of government, public policy and public values, as the antidote to what Ulrich Beck long ago defined as ‘risk society’—the society of side-effects.

From a different perspective, but similar approach, the eloquent feminist social scientist Nancy Fraser highlights in her 2017 book Social Reproduction Theory how creating and maintaining social bonds is essential to guaranteeing ‘sustainability’ in society. Fraser’s focus is on caring, which provides ties between generations, as well as within and across communities. But this is threatened, she argues, by the withdrawal of public support under neoliberal, financialised capitalism. The result of this attenuation of social bonds is for us a ‘crisis society’—a systemic condensation of the financial, political, ecological, social and health challenges we have been (and are) experiencing nowadays, which are strongly intertwined.

Precarious workers

The Covid-19 crisis magnifies the distortions imposed by neoliberal ideology on the socio-economic system. To the fore are the increasingly precarious working conditions of some social groups in the labour market. Precarious workers are most at risk from the pandemic, because they lack social and human rights (including to collective bargaining and participation) while enjoying little or no social protection (including adequate unemployment and sickness benefits). This is the case for those who cannot work (the unemployed) and those who do but do not have guaranteed work or hours (on-call and zero-hours contracts)—as well as all the low-paid, who are mostly migrants, women and youth segregated in specific sectors of the economy, such as cleaning, hospitality and retail.

A large proportion of the European workforce already works under employment arrangements usually referred to as non-standard, the ‘standard’ being a good, old-fashioned, full-time, open-ended employee contract. This category includes dependent self-employed, temporary agency workers, bogus self-employed and digital platform workers, with all the potential overlaps among them.

First to succumb.....


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Reply The coronavirus, social bonds and the 'crisis society' (Original post)
Celerity Mar 25 OP
ismnotwasm Mar 25 #1
Celerity Mar 25 #2

Response to Celerity (Original post)

Wed Mar 25, 2020, 02:25 PM

1. I was talking to the Housekeepers at my hospital

These particular ones are immigrants from the Philippines. Interesting how almost the entirety of our environmental services team are immigrants from one country or the other.

Anyway, she told me of workers with two or three jobs, maybe at a restaurant, and cleaning houses, etc now out of work, and already out of food.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #1)

Wed Mar 25, 2020, 02:30 PM

2. dire situation for them, as they are in the US, which is especially non-safety net friendly

they are probably Catholic (the dominant religion in the Philippines) so maybe they could try there

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