Precarious Lives: The Deepening Pathologies of Neoliberalism in French Cinema (1980 to the Present)


  • Temenuga Trifonova



 Understood as a politico-epistemological program rather than simply free-market fundamentalism, as a particular production of subjectivity that constitutes individual subjects as ‘human capital’ rather than simply a way of governing economies or states, neoliberalism has led to the profound destruction of social bonds and to the production of economic, social, and political vulnerability and precarity. Precarity – referring to the rise in flexible and precarious forms of labour, the growth of the knowledge economy, the reduction of welfare state provisions, the suppression of unions, and the association of migration with illegality – has become one of the buzz words in studies of neoliberalism’s restructuring of the global economy and of the entire human sensorium. The recent volume Insecurity1 encapsulates the dominant understanding of precarity and precariousness as the default state of life today, the logic governing the present cultural, economic, political, and social life in the West. This article identifies several dominant narrative motifs in French films made between the 1980s and 2020s that take precarity and precaritization as their subject, and draws attention to an important shift in attitudes to work and class struggle, a shift indicative of the deepening pathologies of neoliberalism.