UR.Babel Relieved.

e-urban's comments on rapidly changing keywords within the Babylonian Tower of urban intervention

Urban ghettos, precarious neighbourhoods, show crime, impoverishment, drugs abuse, bad schools and an apparent absence of any cultural asset. Poverty and regression are ugly things.
Ugly things make no good sell for white-paper writing bureaucrats or researchers.
That is why, amongst them, an uncommon creativity rules in the domain of words, of neologisms.
Words are powerful. Often, it is the word that defines the way of thinking, and not the thought that gives birth to a word.

That is why we try to be alert, so as not to give in to the power of words that may contaminate our thinking.

UR.Babel WORDS features an etymological and Orwellian ("newspeak") approach to linguistic innovations.
As much as possible, comments are translated into the three other e-urban languages.

Lire l'introduction à UR.Babel en Français >> | Diese Einleitung zu UR.Babel deutsch lesen >> | Deze inleiding tot UR.Babel in het Nederlands lezen >>


Abgehängt: Relégué, Marginalised, Afgehaakt

DEFlag.gif>"Abgehängtes Prekariat" (Deutschland, *Oktober 2006) - Trad.: Abhängen = 1. [transitiv] Anhänger (vom Auto) abhängen; 2 [intransitiv] abhängig sein, von Andern abhängen.

< Ersetzt: "Ausgegrenzt" (Deutschland, *+/- 1993) - Trad: Ausgrenzen = 1. [transitiv] abtrennen (Teil eines Ganzen) [Analog mit "ausbürgern"]; 2. [reflexiv] = SICH ausgrenzen = sich isolieren.

Im Zusammenhang mit städtischen Problemvierteln und ihren Bewohnern gibt es zwischen '93 und 2006 eine Betonung der Trennung von ihnen und ebenfalls eine verstärkte Suggestion ihrer Abhängigkeit. Wichtig sind auch die unterliegenden Gefühlswerten die aus den intransitiven und reflexiven Bedeutungen hervorgehen: Man hätte SICH ("von uns") abgehängt, SICH ausgegrenzt. Als ob es sich um eine bewusste Wahl händelte.

FRFlag.gifAbhängen [DE]: 1. [transitif] déconnecter, décrocher (une remorque), séparer; 2. [intransitif] s'isoler, se retirer . Utilisé *2006 avec "Prekariat" (=personnes en situation précaire) ( <analogue: boulot précaire).

Représente une accentuation, par rapport à l'"Ausgrenzung" (=relégation) jusqu'ici courante, de la signification sous-jacente d'un choix conscient en faveur d'une vie parasitaire.

UKFlag.gifAbhängen [DE]: 1. [transitive] to detach, to disconnect; 2. [intransitive] to drop out, to give up. Was used in October 2006 in conjunction with "Prekariat" (anal.: < Proletariat).  Precariat = people who live in precarious circumstances, are attached to their precariousness.

Compared to the usual "ausgegrenzt" (=put under the ban), "abgehängt" emphasizes a supposed voluntary element in what is seen as self-isolation of inhabitants of problematic urban neighbourhoods. It suggests a parasitic, selfish way of living to which abgehängtes people are attached. Drop-outism as a mass phenomenon that sucks common middle class people.

NLFlag.gifAbgehängt [DE]: 1. [overgankelijk] Losgekoppeld, afgehaakt; 2. [onovergankelijk] er de brui aan gegeven hebben, afgehaakt, het gehad hebben. Wer in october 2006* gebruikt samen met "Prekariat" (=mensen met precaire levensomstandigheden, precaire baantjes, in de bijstand).

"Afgehaakt" is een versterking van het tot nu toe gebruikelijke "ausgegrenzt" (=apart gezet). Bovendien suggereert de onovergankelijke betekenis dat dit een bewuste keuze van de werkloze en sappelende bewoners van stedelijke probleemwijken zou zijn. Vlak onder de oppervlakte ligt de notie van "parasitair", a-sociaal, onsolidair.  


Précariat: Precariat, Prekariat, Precariaat

UKFlag.gifPrecariat (< Precarious << Proletariat) = People living in precariousness.
The word "Precariat" is not (yet) in my Merriam-Webster Dictionary. For "precarious", it says:

pre·car·i·ous (\pri-‚kar-‡-„s, -‚ker-\ adj; L precarius obtained by entreaty, uncertain — more at PRAYER (1646)
1 : depending on the will or pleasure of another
2 : dependent on uncertain premises : DUBIOUS ‹precarious generalizations›
3 a : dependent on chance circumstances, unknown conditions, or uncertain developments
   b : characterized by a lack of security or stability that threatens with danger; syn: see DANGEROUS
— pre·car·i·ous·ly adv — pre·car·i·ous·ness n 

Probably first used in France +/- 1990: f.i.:"boulots précaires" = uncertain jobs, i.e.: temporary jobs (in part) subsidised by the state, for unemployed. While this phenomenon became more and more current in certain urban areas, the uncertainty ( > abandonment, >> insecurity, or: feelings of insecurity by non-inhabitants) grew into a common denomination for the people on the wrong side of the "fracture sociale" (social break): The "Précariat" was born.

New Proletariat?

The analogy with "proletariat" (* Marx/Engels, 1848, probably earlier used by utopic Socialists), seduced some (anarcho-) leftists, who were (desperately) looking for the so suddenly disappeared proletarian engine for the Revolution. An international "Mayday" of the precariat was celebrated in Berlin on the 1st of May, 2006 (see a coming journal post.). The initiators imagined turning 2006 into 1848, when the hithherto disdainful word "proletariat" ( < proles [LATIN]: "people, who have nothing to loose but their offspring") had been transformed into a proud denomination of the class that would for sure ultimately win the class-struggle for a classless society (Communist Manifesto: "The proletariat has nothing to loose but their chains").

A modern urban development, difficult, but not impossible, to overcome 

However, the Sociologists who invented the term "precariat", hold the opinion, that the Precariat is not an economically defined class, whose members will overturn the higher and middle classes, like the bourgeoisie overturned the nobles. It is a social trend in modern society, regarding economically lower and middle classes indisciminately, based on the disappearing need for masses of lower- and un-skilled workers in urban areas. Society as a whole is wealthy enough now to continue to provide (financial, housing, medical, educational, etc.) security to all. Like it has done during more than a century in the "welfare-states" of the West. But it has chosen (not deliberately, but perhaps instinctively) to drop the social approach, a long time hailed as a "step forward in civilisation", to replace it with a more individualistic one. [Somewhat more in depth, this background of the urban intervention policies is researched in: L'exclusion s'accentue: Plus d'accès pour tous aux soins (7/2/06) [FR] (Pourquoi, une siècle après son arrivée, l'acquis social européen s'effondre ...), here in the e-urban Journal (EN translation still coming up).

Loïc Wacquant (see his biography and publications list on the Berkely University website), a prolific French/American Sociologist, is a major player in this debate. He argues, that the "précariat" is not an underclass, but a modern social phenomenon, completely created by the Western Governmental policies. It is roughly the same argumentation he uses in holding, that the US (black and immigrants') ghetto is fundamentally different from the Western European deprived urban neighbourhoods. For his comments on the French suburban revolts of November 2005, see:
PDF.png[pdf]« L'Etat incendiaire face aux banlieues en feu » par Loïc Wacquant (2005).

Relevance for urban practice 

"Precarity" seems indeed an appropriate description of the situation in which the inhabitants of deprived urban areas are. It indicates the insecurity (subjective and objective) of the life of students, women, small businesses, half-employed, interim workers, etc., who tend to populate our urban quarters. They are not the poor, starving, sick wrecks of the early industrial period, nor the Third World slum dwellers, nor the inhabitants of the violent ghettos in the U.S..
They are quite different between each other: Some only temporarily handicapped, others unemployed since generations. The "Precariat" cannot be unified like the former proletariat with its power to strike. Within the particular local configuration, however, collaboration and participation can be promoted and slumbering skills activated. Through empowerment and self-government, precariousness, that is more a psychological and psycho-social habitus, than an economically defined fate, can be overcome for a majority of them. To be "a proud member of the Precariat", is not a choice. Emancipation, self-emancipation, from precarity, is.

Therefore, we deem "precariat" a misleading word

As a scientific term, it is used to avoid a clear definition of social (and political) power relations. This was illustrated in Germany, when, in October 2006, a scientific research defined the 8% poorest inhabitants as "abgehängtes Prekariat" (see "Abgehängt, Marginalised etc." in UR.Babel). In reality, as we all know, many poor people are not (or feel not) precarious, while many of the less poor live in insecurity. Worse was, that "abgehängt" also means as much as "drop out", which makes the thus defined groups reponsible for their own precariousness. ("They do not take up the chances they are offered".) When the president of the Social-Democratic Party spoke of them as an "Unterklasse" (Underclass), the hell broke loose: the memory of the Nazi "Untermenschen" is still alive.

- Coming up: 

[FR] Précariat < Précaire ><Prolétariat
[DE] Prekariat < Prekär >< Proletariat
[NL] Precariaat <Precair >< Proletariaat