Domination through precarization: From Butler’s humanitarian ethics to Marx’s political economy

Naveh Frumer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The key critical idea of Judith Butler’s recent work is ‘differential precarity’: how the same network of social dependency that sustains our existence creates a divide between those for whom it proves protective and enabling and those for whom it implies precarious social existence. Yet the examples Butler analyses present problems not only with how precarization is unequally manifested but how it is rooted in the structures of dependency. Against her intent, Butler reduces systemic problems of dependency to distributive inequalities of precarity. We propose to adapt and enrich Butler’s insight by integrating it into a Marxist framework. The result is a problematization of how capitalist societies are predicated on a productive feedback loop between dependization and precarization. We argue the critical grammar of dependency–precarity helps articulate the latent normative content of Marxism, while the latter advances this grammar beyond the limited envelope of distributivism, offering a critique focused on the nature of dependency and not only its ensuing precarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-390
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Butler
  • Marx
  • dependency
  • inequality
  • precarity


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