SNP’s word of the day: Precariat

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Precariat

Meaning: An emergent social class defined by job insecurity and short-term thinking; semi-synonymous with the freelance economy.

Usage: “Although the experience is different across economic and social situations, we are, at least the 99 per cent of us, the new precariat class. We are frantically digging to keep the tunnel from caving in—digging for air, not treasure.” — Jenna Brager in “No Resolution”

You should know it because: You may well be in it. Or, as it turns out, not so well. The precariat is a neologism combining the traditional, Marx-popularized term for wealthless workers with the word precarity, meaning unpredictable existence. According to economist Guy Standing, who literally wrote the book on the precariat, it’s a growing—and menacing—class. “The precariat consists of those who feel their lives and identities are made up of disjointed bits,” wrote Standing in The Guardian last year, and who can’t relate?

As a busy (and lucky!) freelance writer, editor, and copywriter, I feel like I have six jobs and a dozen pieces of a brain that somehow don’t add up to a whole. My boyfriend, who teaches at a university, never knows whether he’ll have work next semester. Many of my friends, even ones approaching 30, have never had a salaried job. We say we don’t want them, but sometimes I would like to be more certain of tomorrow, freeing me to think beyond it. As part of the precariat, I feel like the whole idea of “the future” is long since in the past.