Archive for Capitalism

Stuff We Forgot

Have you seen the BBC 4 three part documentary “Women”?
If you haven’t, you should. After all, it’s not everyday that we get to see feminism on the telly. And we should really make the most of it while it lasts.

The Guardian has published a critique of the programme’s third part, “Activists”, titled “Enough middle-class feminism” and written by a middle-class feminist. Her words seem to have struck a chord. Her intentions were probably good, as evidenced by this line:

“They have lots to say about the media objectification of women but, bizarrely, little to say about consumerism or capitalism.”

Unfortunately it goes downhill after that.

We’ve been here before, and I’m sure we will be here again. Every time feminists attack the sex industry somebody is compelled to butt in and tell us that “we are not dealing with what really matters”. My opinion on the subject hasn’t changed: the sex industry, especially in it’s everyday manifestation of pr0n, advertising, entertainment, media, et al, and it’s spilling over as the “beauty” industry, that’s fashion, dieting, looks, et al, is the only remaining ideological tool with which women are being oppressed in the realm of the superstructure. (And all this theory is way out of my league!). What on Earth am I trying to say? Simple. The message still is “women, stay in your place”, because women must, at all costs, stay in their place. But now they can’t come out and say it like that. The religious arguments don’t hold much water in rich, liberal democratic societies. The biological determinist idea that women are just not good at the “big stuff” has been reduced to shreds through decades of feminist theorizing, researching and probably Margaret Thatcher. The arrangement of woman as “mother and homemaker” can’t apply anymore, because now every adult human is needed in the labour market to keep productivity high and wages low. To recap. “Women are not as good as men because Christ wasn’t a woman”, crossed. “Women are just not as good as men, they are not rational, intelligent, whatever”, crossed. “A woman’s place is in the home”, crossed. What are we left with? “Women are just good for sh*gging”. Or pretty things to look at.

Back to the article, I have to say it does bring up something that crossed my mind when I was watching the documentary: sure, sure, the sex industry should be killed with fire, but… what about the other stuff? There’s not even a hint of a critique of capitalism. I can’t remember anyone acknowledging that not every human being, or every feminist for that matter, lives in London.

That said, I am getting increasingly tired of everyone and their dog using the “where are the working class women” card to attack feminism, of the second wave or the third one. Feminism doesn’t have monopoly rights over forgetting the working class. And it most certainly isn’t the only movement to forget working class women. To put it bluntly, feminism forgot about the working class just as the Left forgot about women. There’s enough guilt to spread around.
And if we’re going to be painfully honest, the Left has forgotten about the working class as well. Deprived of its core ideology, that is, the economy, it has been left rumbling about like an undead corpse, kept alive exclusively by debates over politically correct language and multiculturalism. Hardly conducive of revolutionary change. And if you ask uneducated, ignorant, old me, this is too similar to what feminism has been reduced to, that is, focus on the culture and the ideas, the “superstructure”, and leave the “base” intact.

What we have in our hands is the conflict of how to go about changing the root of the problem when all we can see is its effect on the surface. Feminists attack the discursive ideas of women as sex objects because that’s where we see misogyny and oppression taking place. In reality it stems from some place else, but what that is or where exactly it’s located, we have no clue.
The traditional Left, however, has known what it needs to do to revolutionize society for more than a century. What’s their (our) excuse?

I’m beginning to think that women’s oppression and worker’s oppression share a common root, and that both should be tackled at the same time. These ideas are too fresh in my mind, however, to write about them as of yet.

Before you go, take a look at this article on a seemingly entirely unrelated topic, “Yes, striking is a human right”. There’s this one word that got me thinking…

“The real question we should be asking is not why do people strike, but why they do not do so more often? To respond by saying that workers are all happy bunnies compared with their forebears would not be the right answer.”

Could the sex industry and capitalism have more in common than we previously thought?


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Jobs Not Fit For Adults

It’s just about late enough to comment on this article from last Sunday’s “The Observer Magazine”, titled “Lost Generation”. It’s quite long and rather mediocre. And the only thing that saves it is the fact that the issues the author raises are big and important. The whole article can be summarized thus:

“Our parents had free education, fat pensions, and second homes. We’ve got student debt and a property ladder with rotten rungs. Thanks very much, says Andrew Hankinson, BSc”.

Hankinson is pissed off because he’s 29, he’s unemployed, has no career and a soaring student debt. There are probably millions like him in this country.

I could probably write a book on the subject. In fact, I am considering doing just that. In the meantime, let’s look at what other people say. The comments online split equally between those who understand he’s onto something and sympathize with him and those who are basically telling him to “grow up”.

But those who are telling Hankinson to grow up are onto something as well. Yes, he could probably grow up a little. But if Hankinson is representative or a whole generation, as we have good reason to believe he is, it becomes rather pointless to ask everyone to “grow up”. The problem is precisely that this “Lost Generation” hasn’t been allowed to grow up.

But what do I know, right? Being a (kindof) Marxist, I always look at the economy for answers. Naomi Klein, in her book “No Logo”, has a section titled “Branded Word: Hobbies, Not Jobs”. She says:

“Most of the large employers in the service sector manage their workforce as if their clerks didn’t depend on their paychecks for anything essential, such as rent of child support. Instead, retail and service employers tend to view their employees as children: students looking for summer jobs, spending money or a quick stopover on the road to a more fulfilling and better-paying career.”

“(…) This internalized state of perpetual transience has been convenient for service-sector employers who have been free to let wages stagnate and to provide little room for upward mobility, since there is no urgent need to improve the conditions of jobs that everyone agrees are temporary.(…)”

“In general, the corporations in question have ensured that they do not have to confront the possibility that adults with families are depending on the wages that they pay (…). Just as factory jobs that once supported families have been reconfigured in the Third World as jobs for teenagers, so have the brand-name clothing companies and restaurant chains given legitimacy to the idea that fast-food and retail-sector jobs are disposable, and unfit for adults.”

“The fact is that the economy needs steady jobs that adults can live on.”

Now, people may say that wages have always been low, and that job security has never existed, and to some extent that may be right. Though I personally struggle with that last one. My grandfather spent 25 years in the same factory, and my mum and dad a good decade in their respective jobs, whereas we can be pretty certain no one from my generation will come anywhere near that record time.

But it’s pretty naive, not to mention entirely unproductive to claim that “things have always been the same”. The global economy has changed, and the labour market is different to what it was 50 years ago.

Hankinson may need to grow up. But so does this economic system, whose replacement is long long overdue.

PS: By the way, from now on, you can all start referring to me as “Mary Tracy, BSc”. HA!

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Pirates Ahoy!


Mind you, calling them pirates is a compliment. I am actually very fond of pirates.

More of “banks as pirates” goodness from Naomi Klein: “In Praise of a Rocky Transition” from Znet and an interview for Democracy Now!

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Too Free A Market

I am fairly new to this economic “thing”. (The prove is that I am calling it “thing”) But I know that one doesn’t get democracy by leaving things to “the experts”. In fact, that is precisely the opposite of democracy: leaving the complicated stuff to the ones “in the know” hoping they’ll rule us with a fair hand because we, the ignorant masses, cannot possibly comprehend what is going on and make decisions about it.
So there I was, taking my first steps into this thing we call “economy” when “oops a daisy!”, here comes an economic crisis and all my knowledge is put to test. And so the other day, I came up with a really funny economic thought. Well, as funny as economic thoughts can be.
You may have noticed that this supposed economic experts keep on repeating that the cause of this crisis was the lack of “regulations” to the financial market. That’s the magic word, “regulations”. Ok, fair enough. But then I thought, hang on a tic. Weren’t “regulations” supposedly NOT ALLOWED within a “free market” economy? I’m pretty sure that’s correct. The right wing free market fundamentalists speak of nothing else but “letting the free market free”. Furthermore, the liberalisation of the financial market came precisely from the reagonomics of the 70s and 80s, in whicn the “free market” speech was all we heard about. So let’s see if I get this straight:
The economic system in place, the “free market” is based on the assumption that regulations are a no no. And so, the financial markets, like the rest of the economy, should run free like the wind.
But then comes an economic crisis and the economic experts, the ones who preach the wonders of the “free market”, tell us that the problem was the excess of “freedom” of the financial markets.
As we say here in the internetz, W00T???
Dude, make up your mind. Is the free market the solution or the problem?
I looks to me as if the beneficiaries of the free market AND it’s very designers are practically recognizing that their beloved system doesn’t work. Well, of course they’d say that. Because what they are asking now is a big hand from the state, something which is only allowed within “Leftist” systems. You know, those in which everything in the economy is regulated. So the talk of “lack of regulations” speech is code word for “we never thought the free unregulated market would work, honest!. Can you help us out please?”.
What is truly astonishing is that the left isn’t doing anything about this. WAKE UP, PEOPLE! They are admiting their system is rubbish, even if it’s only to rip the benefits of crossing momentarily to the other side. This is our oportunity to really change things! What are we all waiting for?

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The Zero Sum Job Game

Zero Sum Game: zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). ie: if one gains, another loses.

Because the job market is all about competition! And because for you to win, others have to lose! Doesn’t it sound FUN?

Proving once again that propaganda is everywhere, even when we don’t notice it. “Competing is good, so long as you come before everyone else”, “everyone can reach the top if you know the right tricks” and “there’s not enough to go around”.

Dedicated to Lynn Gary, producer of the awesome radio programme Unwelcome Guests and author of the quote above, for providing the world with a good-sized serving of dissent and for giving me a much needed weekly dose of sanity.

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I Dream Of Job!

I have been looking for a job for more time than I think humanly bearable. No one should have to put up with this torture, it’s a downright violation of human rights. And no, I am not overreacting just because I’m a drama queen (which I am). But because job hunting means submitting to Capitalism in ways that normal day-to-day activities and work itself do not require. One thing is to be exploited. Quite another is to “beg” for it.

Do not fear, though. This blog will not descend into compulsive ranting about the labour market, the unemployment rate and the trials and tribulations of the job searching process. Well, not entirely. But for the moment being, I really need to get all this stuff out of my chest. And who knows. Maybe I’ll become a professional ranter about the labour market, the unemployment rate and the trials and tribulations of the job searching process, with a twist of (f)art. 😉

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