However, I want to insist that we decentre wage labour in our conception of life under capitalism. The fetishism of the wage may well be the source of capitalist ideologies of freedom and equality, but the employment contract is not the founding moment. For capitalism begins not with the offer of work, but with the imperative to earn a living. Dispossession and expropriation, followed by the enforcement of money taxes and rent: such is the idyll of ‘free labour’. In those rare moments of modern emancipation, the freed people—from slavery, serfdom and other forms of coerced labour—have never chosen to be wage labourers. There may be a ‘propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another’, as Adam Smith put it, but there is clearly no propensity to get a job.
Rather than seeing the bread-winning factory worker as the productive base on which a reproductive superstructure is erected, imagine the dispossessed proletarian household as a wageless base of subsistence labour—the ‘women’s work’ of cooking, cleaning and caring—which supports a superstructure of migrant wage seekers who are ambassadors, or perhaps hostages, to the wage economy. These migrations may be short in distance and in interval—the daily streetcars or buses from tenement to factory, apartment block to office, that will come to be called ‘commuting’—or they may be extended to the yearly proletarian globe-hopping of seasonal workers by steamship, railroad and automobile, as well as the radical separation of airborne migration linked by years of remittances and phone calls. Unemployment precedes employment, and the informal economy precedes the formal, both historically and conceptually. We must insist that ‘proletarian’ is not a synonym for ‘wage labourer’ but for dispossession, expropriation and radical dependence on the market. You don’t need a job to be a proletarian: wageless life, not wage labour, is the starting point in understanding the free market.
The article goes on to catalog the ways this concept of unemployment has evolved--and how the idea of unemployment normalizes employment (and vice versa)--into the present circumstances where the informal sector is growing at a faster pace than the formal. What this means for our conception of work and labor is unclear but he confirms that, far from being irrelevant, much of this discussion can be found in Marx's own work.
That globalization produces redundancy would be better understood not through the deceptively concrete image of wasted lives, but through Marx’s two dialectically related concepts: the relative surplus population and the virtual pauper. The one is from Capital; the other from the Grundrisse. In the key chapter on ‘The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation’ in Capital, Marx views the problem from the vantage point of capital: ‘it is capitalist accumulation itself that constantly produces, and produces indeed in direct relation with its own energy and extent, a relatively redundant working population, i.e. a population which is superfluous to capital’s average requirements for its own valorization, and is therefore a surplus population.’ He continues: ‘this is a law of population peculiar to the capitalist mode of production; and in fact every particular historical mode of production has its own special laws of population’. Indeed, ‘the relative surplus population exists in all kinds of forms. Every worker belongs to it during the time when he is only partially employed or wholly unemployed.’ The industrial reserve army is thus merely one of these forms; in fact, as might be expected, Marx’s specific examples of the relative surplus population are the most dated part of his analysis. 
The fundamental metaphor in Marx’s account is that of opposing forces: it is not as if there are two kinds of workers, employed and unemployed, or two sectors of the economy, formal and informal; rather, there is a process in which ‘greater attraction of workers by capital is accompanied by their greater repulsion . . . the workers are sometimes repelled, sometimes attracted again in greater masses’. The ‘higher the productivity of labour, the greater is the pressure of the workers on the means of employment, the more precarious therefore becomes the condition for their existence, namely the sale of their own labour-power’. Intriguingly, almost the entire contemporary vocabulary—redundant, superfluous, precarious—can be found in this chapter. 
If the passage in Capital tells the story from the point of view of the accumulation of capital, the parallel passage in the Grundrisse begins from the point of view of living labour: ‘It is already contained in the concept of the free labourer, that he is a pauper: a virtual pauper . . . If the capitalist has no use for his surplus labour, then the worker may not perform his necessary labour’. Marx is not arguing that all workers are or will become beggars, as in the immiseration thesis often attributed to him. Rather, this is his account of bare life: since the exchange required for the means of living—the selling of labour-power—is accidental and indifferent to their organic presence, the worker is a virtual pauper.  Virtual paupers: this strange figure—which combines an almost lost word with one that has taken on entirely new connotations—will be my temporary resting place. In a letter written as he turned fifty, Marx wrote: ‘half a century on my shoulders and still a pauper’. A century and a half on again, the spectre of wageless life still weighs upon us.