August 05, 2011

Contraction I'm no economist, but my understanding of the recent analysis of employment data from Dean Baker is that the contraction in the labor market is structural. That is, the problem is not just that companies are getting workers to do more or work longer hours. Companies are also not just switching their labor force to temporary workers. Rather, companies are doing less and need fewer people. The contraction is real; the economy is actually smaller. The repercussion, then, is not just that capitalism in the US is experiencing a crisis (since capitalism always experiences crises). It's that capitalism in the US is changing, devolving. It is ever more a system that not only treats people (in production and consumption) as disposable in the sense of replaceable, but that disposes of people in the sense that it can do without more and more of them. At the same time, Baker notes the addition of jobs in the goods producing sector (mining, construction, manufacturing). This suggests that "really making things" still matters, that it's a dimension of the economy that hasn't been "postmodernized" away. It suggests in other words a continuing core of economic activity that persists even as service and knowledge sector positions in the post-Fordist economy fade away because they don't make anything real. From Dean Baker: The temp sector added just 300 jobs in July. Employment in the temp sector is down 17,700 jobs since March. This is noteworthy because it directly contradicts the business uncertainty story. If businesses...
Not all in the same boat--and our boats are sinking Excerpted from excellent piece here (read the whole thing--first few sections focus on individual stories) A recent article by Evan MacDonald in the June 2011 issue of Consumer Report states that: "In 23 of the past 24 months, lower income Americans have lost more jobs than they've gained. Meanwhile, more affluent Americans seem to be gaining more jobs than they're losing." To hear millionaire Congressmen and TV pundits, poverty only exists in Third World countries while America is rapidly becoming one itself. In the US, poor people are euphemistically referred to as "the struggling middle class" while Third World poverty that is now enveloping Detroit and Camden threatens to consume Erie, Pennsylvania. It is one thing to be poor, but quite another to have the deck stacked further against you by the compounding ills of poverty through legal and social structures that are, simply put, unfair. "Equal Justice Under the Law" is inscribed above the doorway to the US Supreme Court. But when the laws are unjust, when moneyed interests shape jurisprudence and public policies and the poor are excluded and forced to bear the all the costs of a "free market"; the hope implied by that inscription rings hollow for many. When money equals speech, and speech equals influence, and influence drives law and public policy, there is no "equal justice under the law" and there is no fairness in such an unethical system. But there is little talk of fairnness in our society today. We hear about how...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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