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24 September 2020

Precarity and Exploitation in Relation to Prestige and Celebrity

David Arditi has a new book coming out that looks at how unscripted (i.e. "reality") shows, like The Voice, exploit musicians who are particularly vulnerable because of their uniquely precarious situation. You can see his ASA presentation on the topic here.

His work inspired a question for me: Why do we tolerate such extreme precarity in a field (i.e. music) that is so beloved? Shouldn't we want to protect cultural producers more than typical workers?

I raised this question in a senior-level course recently, and a student pointed out the similarity in the precarity and exploitation of minor league baseball players. Musicians and professional athletes do indeed hold a unique role for us with celebrity and prestige. Could this be an explanation and not a paradox?

Hypothesis: We are more tolerant/ignorant of the precarity and exploitation of workers in fields that are more prestigious and celebrated.

Anyway, it seems like an interesting area for research.

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