Alfreds Or Precarious Workers in the Globalized Political Economy

I wrote a response piece to a rather interesting article in Medium about the “Shut-in Economy”. My piece talks about the missing class analysis, and about the language we use to discuss precarity and why it is important.

An excerpt:

“As Smiley notes, the name Alfred effectively covers up the fact that the majority of the “Alfreds” are actually women. But the name covers up even more than just this gendered aspect of the work — it covers up the exploitative nature that is at the core of the entire scheme. “Alfred” effectively erases the fact that there are real people, doing real work, with real lives that they have to manage, and it replaces these real people with a caricature. It is easier to abuse, neglect and marginalize the needs of a caricature from another world.

Ironic humor works as a veil in the high-technology, service economy. If users can poke fun of themselves and their aristocratic lifestyles, they can feel absolved. As long as they know that it’s ridiculous, they don’t have to do anything about it. “We’re trying to remove the taboo and the guilt that you should have to do it,” says Alfred’s CEO. “Do it,” in this case, means do anything that you don’t want to do. And that is the goal of this economy — to enable the wealthy to spend all of their time accumulating more wealth, without needing to deal with the petty details like taking care of the core-human needs like washing, cooking, watching your kids, etc.”

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