Aspirational individuals, hopeful communities: histories and subjectivities of precarity in regional Australia

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In this paper, we utilise Jørgensen’s concept of what precarity does to make sense of stalled industrial development in a regional Australian community. In 2008–2009, a Chinese-owned multinational company proposed the development of an alumina refinery near Bowen, Queensland, offering residents the prospect of economic and local job growth, before the proposal was shelved in 2010. In direct contrast to the imagined ‘secure employment’ residents hoped the development would offer, past experiences of multinational developments had instead compounded economic and social precarity. Through a qualitative study of community and business perceptions in Bowen in 2008–2009, we explore how a regional community understands and resists histories and experiences of precarity. Despite recognising the changing economic and social structures that have contributed to insecurity, actors position themselves as malleable and aspirational potential workers, rather than resisting employment insecurity through collective means. This study provides a way of understanding the forces that impact aspirations of work in regional Australia and the gap between these aspirations and the tangible social impacts of a neoliberal economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-556
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Sociology
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2020


  • globalisation
  • multinational companies
  • precarity
  • secure employment
  • social sustainability

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