Why global health should embrace the global precariat

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It’s not often you come across a truly visionary op-ed but in my opinion last week’s viewpoint from Guy Standing in The Guardian, ‘Cheer up – a renewed left is coming’, fits the bill. In the piece, Standing says the precariat is today’s (emerging) mass class, and like the proletariat in the 19th and part of the 20th century, it will define a new progressive agenda for this age. Not all the examples he gives of “precariat uprisings” in countries around the globe are convincing, and not everybody shares his analysis, obviously, but the man has a point. If the 21st century is to have a progressive agenda, it will need to come through a social and political mass movement with a vital role for this precariat.

Granted, the precariat is not yet a “global” class, and our individualized and fragmented societies don’t exactly facilitate its emergence, but nevertheless, as Standing mentions, “a growing part of the precariat perceives a common predicament, realising that this is a collective experience due to structural features of the economic and political system.” People belonging to this precariat lead very insecure/precarious lives, and “increasingly resemble denizens rather than citizens: people with restricted rights, largely living towards the bottom of a “tiered membership” model of society, in which a plutocratic elite takes the single biggest share, while other classes – the salariat, free-ranging “proficians”, and what remains of the old working class – divide up most of what remains.”

If you share this analysis, and French economist Piketty has provided some more evidence for it lately, the conclusion for the global health community seems obvious.

Source: SWIHPS (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
governance, public-private partnerships