Thursday, 1 December 2011

Simon's View on Society: Part 1: As it stands

This blog will hopefully be a 3 or 4 part-er about the global situation as I see it, More likely this will be a one off that no one will read because it’s what can loosely be described as a rather dull mix of economics and geography. So without further ado let’s bring on the boredom!

Part 1: As it stands: Post Fordism

So we live in a post-Fordist society, simply put we are currently live in an era after that of mass production (courtesy of Henry Ford) and no one has come up with a catchy enough name to describe the new era in which we live, but one thing is for certain it’s an era of change:  From manual factory labour, to service industrial jobs in developed economies, a widening employment polarisation both within and between regions, Characterised in the crudest terms by widening wage inequality. Yet perhaps more tragic then this is the individualisation (arguably even isolation) of labour. Gone are the class structures of Fordism, unions no longer appear at the forefront of workers minds, and other benefits from employments, such as pensions and sick pay appear to dwindle, as rising unemployment in western economies, driven not only by population growth but a long overdue reduction in the gendering of labour, savages the benefits to employment as the free market runs rampant. No longer embedded within society or even governance the economy drives all social benefit from employment into the dust in its wake.

This is getting pretty heavy, have some kittens

Instead Fordist benefits are replaced by precariousness in employment, employer flexible hours and lower wages. Yet there is also an arguably more intense vilifications and alienation of those who sit on the outsides, Immigrants, the unable to work and the unemployed (although perhaps the social stigma associated with unemployment has done more to keep a low welfare bill then many government savings attempts) become scape goats for macro level economic problems of which they have no control. Society is nevertheless incapable of appreciating the irony of shaming the unemployed in a system in which employment is no longer secured.

  All of which continue to further the equity gap. As Danny Quah theorised the knowledge economy does not lead to expansible and weightless transactions or infinite geographical reach because any potential benefit is eradicated due to uneven access and opportunity (often via infrastructure). Non-rivalrous knowledge goods are simply commodified as previously had been the case for formalising Land, Labour and liquidity. (Polanyi) Knowledge joins these as a fictitious commodity, that was forcibly created, yet claimed to be fundamental to the free market functioning. This combined with the “Superstar effect” (you pay a huge amount for the very best, you believe only the greatest will do and pay them accordingly, while those below, irrespective of rank, are paid comparatively little, despite being only marginally less useful) all lead to what Quah calls the “twin peaks of global development” in which there is no middle class, simply rich and a disassociated (even from each other) poor. (Worth noting that in this increasingly polarised society Quah owns a Lamborghini Gallardo and I don’t)

All will be equal when I've got one Danny

So that’s all gravy, lots of stuff about inequality and how bad the free market is, but what does it all mean? Well standing says a sevenfold structure of social divisions. Split into 7 catagories.
Elite: the top 1%
Salariat: Stable employment with employment benefits gvmnt/large corporation
Proficians: Portfolio workers
Old working class: Manual labours
Precariat: Precarious employment. Characterised by the 7 forms of insecurity
Unemployed: those actively seeking to work
Detached: rarely employed, alienated by society through no fault of their own. Often generations of Worklessness

And it is the Precariat category that I will investigate further in my next blog (TUNE IN NEXT WEEK)

Here's a song about what the UK might be like about this time next week


  1. My seminar tutor said today that capitalism ended in the 1920s and was replaced by regulated-entrepreneurialism.


  2. I liked the kittens and the song

  3. From that view capitalism ends even before that, the role of financiers was huge. They simply deal in pieces of paper that have no face value, for extreme sums of money. It's kind of like a throwback to Lenin in Imperialism really, is the state really in control? do economic actors really make rational decisions based on what is best for their capitalist business model of combining capital and labor, or are their higher actors in charge. these financiers who produce nothing yet deal in huge sums of money. surely this money attracts the attention of policymakers more so then the normal profits of capitalist firms?
    But at the same time is that not still capitalism. I guess if money is Capital, and financiers are trading in liquid capital then yes capitalism still runs, if not surely it ended more like 1880

  4. I'm with Mini. The kittens were nice :)

  5. I liked the song. Going to watch Shaun of the Dead now.

  6. We also live in a post Harrison Fordist word, and I am thrilled to be here. But seriously interesting work, looking forward to some expansion next week.