0 20 2015

After the Good Life - Introduction

Stephen Schryer

Abstract


When people refer to the good life, they usually have in mind a specific middle-class lifestyle that flourished between the 1940s and early 1970s. This lifestyle has steadily eroded since that period as the socioeconomic circumstances that sustained it disappeared; most of the welfare systems that protected the middle class have worn thin, and middle-class work has become tenuous and uncertain as a result of downsizing and permatemping. We live in a world marked, in Loïc Wacquant's terms, by "Social Insecurity" (Punishing the Poor 3), a generalised sense of anxiety brought about by the acceleration of creative destruction within late capitalism. Nevertheless, the good life persists as an ideal with ambiguous effects. At times, it helps citizens challenge the neoliberal assaults on what remains of the welfare state. At other times, this ideal props up neoliberal ideology itself, keeping workers chasing after the ever-receding mirage of middle-class security.

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ISSN 1749-9771