“Flexibility/agility” remain two core twin concepts of neoliberalism, for the last 40 years in which these two terms first began to be widely used. These twin terms are frequently if not always used together, and as core concepts of neoliberalism, it should also be noted that both of these are core ideological concepts.
“Flexibility” remains an ever-shifting catchall for employers to impose the logic of capital on employees, this logic involving insecurity, uncertainty and of course lower wages, but employees accepting this as “flexibility”. In the early-Twenty-First Century, this is perhaps best embodied in zero-hours contracts and bogus ‘’self-employment’’ in which contracts guarantee working hours of zero, and all employer obligations are circumvented by individualising them as the responsibility of the ‘‘independent contractor’’.
It remains the task of any critical theory to recognise that “flexibility” is used to describe such conditions of work that exist under neoliberalism as these conditions undergo what is also called “flexibilization”, or the wholesale and macro-level imposition of “flexibility”.
“Flexibility’s” twin concept “Agility” similarly remains a popular term for describing the “lean” organisation and company. In practice, “agility” also means the organisation seeking to ‘be agile’ at all costs, management seeking to find ways of doing this by increasing working time – or as with zero-hours contracts, compressing it into a smaller and shorter timeframe – whilst lowering or not increasing pay.
“Agility” like “flexibility” can be said to typify neoliberal work relations in which everything operates according to its own instrumental reason of ‘competing’ in ‘the market’ at all costs.
The problems of recognising the present social reality from ‘where’ “flexibility” and “agility” emerge, and exactly what they describe or veil, and indeed what they bring about, are all essential questions for us to ask and analyse; this conference being one such contribution toward doing so.