Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Jobs - the thievery of an issue

Once upon a time, jobs were the issue of progressive forces in market economies. Recurrent depressions and recessions removed their means of living from workers, aka "wageslaves", who depend on work for everything from social status to food  and shelter. Since the advent of the neo-liberal counter revolution way back in the previous century an insidious  development has set in in political discourse: appropriation of the formerly progressive jobs/employment subject, of which the more jobs the better was the mission, was appropriated by rightwingers whose primary motivation is to entrench power elites, that is private employers. The engine of  this appropriation was the reduction of job availability, through the demonization of government spending and the proliferation of a work environment in which all jobs are scarce so any job looks better than none. The latest grovelling for Amazon jobs by major cities, including our own GTA urbs, Toronto and Mississauga, is just the one example in a long  thread.

The logic is simple: if you want jobs, which,  thanks to  neo-liberalism''s attack on government investment, are redefined as essentially private sector phenomena, you must make yourselves attractive to private sector employers. There are many ways of doing this but of course opposing unionization and minimizing taxes are popular with right wing job champions. The sad result is that all who seek not any employment but good employment environments becomes prey to anti-job smears.

It's time for more progressives to reclaim the job issue. The alternative is just more of the temporary, benefit-less, union-less and undemocratic workplaces that are the new normal. The solution: an expanded progressive discourse on building a social economy that combines employment and social value, avoiding the false and superficial appeal of purely financially defined work.The problem is clear; the power of enterprises focused on profit is vested in narrowly financial definitions of work, supported by underclasses, be they immigrants or the young, without alternatives. More on the how of opposing this predicament will appear in future posts. Talk of the knowledge economy and the need for workers to transition to new skills is a red herring which blames workers and calls for them to change or disappear (or both).

One immediate solution is a redefinition of work which, in many cases nobody wants to do but has to, to survive. Fewer hours, be it through job sharing or a guaranteed income has little or no impact on productivity. Why don't we do it? The right wing rhetoric of jobs, jobs, jobs and the politics of austerity is the reason. Reading a book is a more socially productive use of time than many jobs. But avoid the many vainglorious books issued by the Trump clan and other such family fortune fueled "self-made" entrepreneurs.       

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