Confronting Precarity in the Warhol Economy: Notes from New York City

Greig de Peuter (2014) “Confronting Precarity in the Warhol Economy: Notes from New York City”, Journal of Cultural Economy 7(1): 31-47.

Normative cultural economy discourse on New York City embraces the creative industries as engines of job creation but neglects the quality of employment within them. This article sets out to both illuminate the precarious conditions of nonstandard workers in New York’s vaunted creative sectors and identify emerging collective responses to precarity in this city. Three areas of labour activity are focused upon: fashion industry frictions, art world agitations, and independent worker initiatives. Under each of these headings, the article profiles two organizations that are variously exposing, resisting, and mitigating precarity among flexible labour forces in the arts, the media, cultural industries, and beyond. The discussion of these organizations is informed by interviews with some of their protagonists, by documents produced by the organizations, and/or by media coverage of them. Challenging the assumption that getting by in informal cultural labour markets obliges individual coping strategies, this article reveals scenes from a metropolitan laboratory of precarious labour politics. These initiatives are inklings of a recomposition of labour politics in which flexible workforces in creative industries are important participants.

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