The Precariat in the Era of Rentier Capitalism

Public guest lecture by Guy Standing, Professor of Development Studies at SOAS, University of London.

Please register here no later than 1 February.

Guy Standing

Guy Standing is Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and a founder member and honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN),an international non-governmental organisation that promotes basic income, whose members include economists, philosophers and other social scientists from over 50 countries.  


In the Global Transformation, the 20th century income distribution system has broken down, irretrievably. The share of income going to labour has fallen sharply all over the world, and the share going to profits has risen. But the share going to various forms of rent has risen most of all. Neither use of tax credits nor a national statutory ‘living wage’ will substantially reverse the regressive trends in the functional distribution of income.

The dis-embedded phase of the Global Transformation has been characterised by the evolution of rentier capitalism and class fragmentation, in which the precariat has become the mass class, in Asia as much as anywhere else in the world. It is the precariat that will provide the energy for a renewed progressive politics, although the old mainstream political parties have failed to respond to its insecurities, needs and aspirations.

This presentation will focus on how the precariat is uniquely disadvantaged by rentier capitalism, and on what an appropriate income distribution system could and should be like if it is to respond to the incipient revolt of the precariat. The first premise of the talk is that there can be no return to the labourism that underpinned social democracy and welfare states in the 20th century. The second is that the precariat will provide the leadership and energy of a new progressive politics.

Discussant: Mikkel Mailand, FAOS, University of Copenhagen.