Precarious labour and the contemporary novel

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authored


The focus of this book is on the condition of precarious labour as it is depicted in recent novels. Since the late 1970s the nature of work and our understanding of it has changed significantly. In this period work has become increasingly insecure but due to the period of Keynesian social captialism that preceded the present era workers workers often continue to think of work as something that will bring them security and prosperity.What marks out the contemporary period is not simply growing levels of insecurity but rather an accompanying sense of loss for socialised forms of security that are recent in the memory but that no longer apply. This has profound implications for those in work who often feel vulnerable or precarious. Precarious labour does not only refer to the threat of unemployment, nor does it only cover conditions of work that are insufficient to secure the good life. Instead, the idea of precarious labour signals workers whose relationship to the social, whose very being, is contingent or at risk. By looking at the way that these changes are depicted in contemporary fiction this book suggests that contemporary novels are driven by an engagement with flexibility as the characteristic conditions of work in the contemporary period and that this generates various depictions of precariousness. It is divided into two sections: the first of these tries of offer an historical reading, exploring the broad changes to the conditions of employment during the era of flexibility since the late 1970s. In the second section the book group texts into different national case studies in order to compare how the general conditions of neoliberal labour form different meanings within different national traditions for thinking about work. Focusing on the USA, the UK and India it suggests that a general historical reading needs to be spatially refracted by different national contexts and traditions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBasingstoke, UK
Number of pages246
ISBN (Electronic)9783319639284
ISBN (Print)9783319639277
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Connell, Liam, Precarious labour and the contemporary novel, 2017, Palgrave Macmillan UK, reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan. This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. The definitive, published, version of record is available here:


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