in Theory & Event, 16.1, Johns Hopkins University Press, March 2013.
Judith Butler has theorized “precarity” as a fundamental condition of life and applied it to Occupy Wall Street. In this essay, I underscore the political significance Butler attaches to precarity in uniting diverse individuals experiencing the subjectivation associated with what Michel Foucault calls “neoliberal governmentality,” where people come to be identified as failing to successfully rely on their human capital in a market-centered society. I argue that precarity is not just a philosophical abstraction but an actually existing discursive practice operant in movement politics in recent years and serving as what Michael Shapiro calls an “action framework” constitutive of the people being represented by Occupy. I suggest that Occupy’s representation of precarity enacted via street theater performs a politics of spectacle consistent with the role of protest movements in the broader political proces s. We can see this once we integrate Butler’s work with the insights of Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward.