The ABC of the projectariat

Living and working in a precarious art world

By Kuba Szreder

The ABC of the projectariat


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6132-1
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £12.99
  • Published Date: November 2021
  • BIC Category: Labour Economics, The arts / Theory of art, Social discrimination & inequality, Economics, ART / Business Aspects, ART / Art & Politics, BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Labor
  • Series: Whitworth Manuals


The ABC of the projectariat contributes new thinking on and practical responses to the widespread problem of precarious labour in the field of contemporary art. It works as both a critical analysis and a practical handbook, speaking to and about the vast cohort of artistic freelancers worldwide.

In an accessible ABC format, the book strikes a unique balance between the practical and the theoretical: the analysis is backed up by lived experience, the arguments are rooted in concrete examples and there are suggestions for constructive action. Roughly half of the entries expose the structural underpinnings of projects and circulation, isolating traits such as opportunism, neoliberalism, inequality, fear and cynicism at the root of the condition of the projectariat. This discussion is paired with a practical account of different modes of action, such as art strikes, productive withdrawals, political struggles and better social time machines. Just as proletarians had nothing to lose but their chains, the projectarians have nothing to miss but their deadlines.


'This book is a weapon for anyone who wants to resist the dominant economy of art. Its voice is situated in the semi-periphery of Europe and resonates with the projectariat from all over the world.'
Zdenka Badovinac, curator and author

'This is an urgent and accessible anatomy of the conditions of art-making today. It vividly conveys the crushing impacts of "the cruel economy of contemporary art" on the material and creative lives of artists while mapping a network of imaginative paths out of it.'
Josh Cohen, author of Not Working: Why We Have to Stop

'A radical dictionary of key terms, Kuba Szreder's The ABC of the projectariat critically diagnoses what it means to live and work in the precarious art world. Organised alphabetically into incisive, readable elaborations, the book unpacks timely concepts of domination - neoliberalism, NGOisation, co-optation, entrepreneurs of the self, precarity - and with other vital selections - art strike, interdependence, productive withdrawal and instituting the commons - offers a crucial vocabulary for anti-capitalist transformation. For a more egalitarian, democratic and inclusive world, it's urgent that we learn this language together.'
T. J. Demos, author of Beyond the World's End: Arts of Living at the Crossing

'From his innovative research with the Free/Slow University of Warsaw to his breakthrough concept of the artistic projectariat, Szreder tenaciously levels our collective attention towards the paradoxes of a cultural economy in crisis, without abandoning hopes for its radical transformation.'
Gregory Sholette, author of Dark Matter and The Artist as Activist

'Kuba Szreder's projectarians are a vanguard part of the precariat. We need a new subversive vocabulary for a new progressive politics, and this book provides much of what is needed.'
Guy Standing, author of The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class


A is for aftermath (COVID-19 as a forced suspension)
A is for Anti-fascist Year
A is for application
A is for Artyzol
A is for assemblage or apparatus
A is for art strikes (lessons to be taken)
A is for art workers
B is for belt-tightening
B is for (no) borders
B is for burn-outs (and other pathologies of responsibility)
C is for capital (economic, social, and symbolic)
C is for capture
C is for circulation
C is for control
C is for co-opetition
C is for co-optation
C is for curatorial mode of production / revolution
C is for cynicism and cliques
D is for dark matter
D is for deadline
D is for demonstration of paintings
E is for enthusiasm
E is for entrepreneurs of the self
E is for exclusion
E is for exodus
E is for expanded field (of art)
F is for fear
F is for Free/Slow (University of Warsaw)
F is for footprint (or carbon miles)
G is for generosity
G is for grant art (NGO-isation)
H is for herding cats
H is for home (office)
I is for independence
I is for instituting the commons
I is for interdependence
K is for (no) kids
L is for labour of love
M is for mutualising (risks and economies)
N is for neoliberalism
N is for networker
N is for numbers and measures
O is for one percent
O is for opportunism
P is for patainstitutions
P is for pollination
P is for poor (artists)
P is for precarity
P is for productive withdrawals
P is for project
P is for projectariat
R is for radical pragmatism
R is for repurposing
S is for seeing everything twice, or the catch 22 of the projectariat
S is for semi-peripheries
S is for sprint
S is for squabbles
S is for struggles
T is for time machines
T is for trawling
T is for turns, or on the vicious cycle
T is for twilight or support structures against exclusion
V is for visibility
W is for wages (for artwork)
W is for winner takes it all
Y is for you are not alone


Kuba Szreder is a lecturer in the department of art theory at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He combines his research with independent curatorial practice. His previous publications include Joy Forever: Political Economy of Social Creativity (2011) and Art Factory: Division of Labor and Distribution of Resources in the Field of Contemporary Art in Poland (2014). In 2018, together with Kathrin Böhm, he initiated Centre for Plausible Economies, a cluster devoted to reimagining economies of contemporary art and utilising artistic imagination to redraw the economy at large.

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