Security versus freedom dilemma is subject of the second article in the series of posts about Zygmunt Bauman’s interview in London on June 25, 2011 by Fronteiras do Pensamiento. You can find the first post here.
In our latest research on Digitalization and work, and specifically on work on platforms (see, for example, chapter 6 of the book “Fronteras del trabajo asalariado” edited by Alberto Riesco), our results suggest a variation in the dichotomy between freedom and security, an eternal dilemma that reminds us of Bauman. Freedom, associated with flexibility, autonomy and the pursuit and development of passions are the main selling points of the so-called entrepreneurial self (Rose, 1992, 1998), but, as our analyzes suggest, there is a significant gap between these symbolic concepts, aspirations for self-expression and self-fulfillment and what is financially or health sustainable.
Bauman and the security versus freedom dilemma
It seems appropriate to recall Bauman’s intervention in this regard that we extract from the Fronteiras do Pensamiento interview:
“81 years ago Freud published “the civilization and its discontent”
He said civilization is always an exchange, a trade-off you give something of one value in order to get something of other value.
Our problem / the problem of old generation is that they surrendered too much freedom for the sake of security. While my conviction is that if Freud was giving this interview at this moment, he will probably repeat that “Every civilization is an exchange, a trade off” but the diagnosis nowadays is the opposite. Our troubles come today from the fact we are surrendered too much of our security for the sake of more freedom. That is a dilemma.
My conclusions are two folds.
You will never find the perfect solution of the dilemma between security and freedom. There will always be too much of one and too low of the other.
You will never stop to look for such a golden mean.”
New forms of work. Freedom/flexibility versus security
The pandemic arrived in 2020 and perhaps it has taught us that in emergency situations and with a clear purpose, and for a limited time, we can give up part of our freedom for the common good of all. This good is “public health”, the health of all.
On the other hand, in digitization has brought an unbalanced system in which, taking the segment of new forms of work (that of platforms), both for skilled and unskilled work, freedom is prioritized, in this case measured by flexibility, compared to the economic security or in terms of health (Although you have to wonder, how much freedom there really is, what would be a topic for another post).
However, “weak signals” are on the horizon to compensate for the lack of security, although it is not yet the majority trend. We are seeing it on unskilled platforms (in the UK where Uber workers are recognized as employees, in Italy where riders are too or those of Ele.me and Meituan in China with the need to impose limits on algorithm and work or the new Spanish law about riders and algorithms) and on qualified platforms (the case of China, with the 996 or the death of Pinduoduo’s employees), in which health problems or lack of safety at work are viralized on social networks.
The answer to guarantee economic and health security in the new forms of work must be sought in new legislation and policies, at the government level, companies, unions, associations, etc. Not only in the case of platforms, but also in the old models that have been digitized such as the example of the young consultants of Goldman Sachs,
Will there be a change in trend to regain some economic and health security?
Alvarez-Hernández, G, Pérez-Zapata, O. (2021). Plataformización y “gestión platafórmica””. Revista Española de Sociología, 30 (2).
Álvarez Hernández, G., Pérez Zapata, O. (2020): Hacia la plataformización: El caso de una plataforma digital cualificada. En A. Riesco-Sanz (Ed.), Fronteras del trabajo asalariado (pp. 155-184). Madrid: Catarata.
Bauman, Z. (2013): “Zymunt Bauman. Segurança e/ou libertade?”, en https://www.youtube.com/embed/Q3TdhIjBW5Q.
Rose, N. (1998): Inventing ourselves: Psychology, power, and personhood, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Rose, N. (1992): “Governing the enterprising self”, en P. Heelas y P. Morris (eds.) The values of the enterprise culture: The moral debate, Routledge, Nueva York, pp. 141-164.