Archive for the ‘World economy’ Category

In New Zealand, the trend of educational institutions has been to out-source cleaning, leading to a decline in the pay and conditions of cleaners, ‘invisible’ workers without whom tertiary education institutions could not function!  In London, however, an important victory has been won by cleaners at the London School of Economics.  This victory shows what can be achieved by ‘precarious’ workers when they decide to fight and have a union which is focused on serious struggle.  The union is called United Voices of the World and consists almost entirely of migrant workers, especially from Latin America.  UVW recruits its members mainly in the low-pay and outsourced London economy – cleaners, porters, construction, childcare workers, people working in customer service and security, etc.

The following statement was released by the union on June 10:

UVW is proud to announce that the LSE cleaners will be BROUGHT IN-HOUSE and become employees of the LSE from Spring 2018! This will ensure they get, among other things, 41 days annual leave, 6 months full pay sick pay and 6 months half pay sick pay, plus proper employer pension contributions of up to 13% of their salary.

This is the most significant victory for any group of workers in UK higher education today, and will hopefully set a precedent to follow for other degraded, outsourced workers across the country.

This announcement comes on the back of an awe-inspiring 10-month battle for (more…)

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 4: Characters

Surveying the Costco Avon Habitus

George was a diminutive 70-year-old who was known as “Tweety Bird” for his resemblance to the Disney character and the way he moved, with an outsized bald head and rapid, back-and forth lateral swaying gait. He came in every day, just about, and often twice or more. He employed two greetings, and two greetings only, directed both at old timers and newcomers at CDS: on some days, he’d growl “I’m taking what I want and I don’t give a fuck!”; on others, he would remark that every day was a beautiful day that we should all be grateful for.

Once an advisor had been at CDS for a little while, George would generally stop for a while and regale the chained advisor with the story of his children, both of whom, he claimed, had died in a clinical sense and had been revived thanks to divine intervention. He would then offer the advisor the chance to read a religious tract he promised to bring next visit, an offer which was, in my experience, without exception declined. George would then employ a strictly businesslike demeanour toward the new advisor for a while, defaulting pretty much to observance of the disjunctive greeting solely.

After a while he would chat a bit, but only about the most banal topics, and only very briefly. One exceptionally slow afternoon, I saw George propelling toward me and was so desirous of meaningful human contact that I tried my best to get him to stay and talk to me for a while. But he would have none of it; and as he hustled away I was sorely tempted to shout after him “GEORGE, THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN JESUS BRINGING YOUR DAMN KIDS BACK FROM THE DEAD! But I held my fire and retreated into the usual, post-encounter stupor.

Sorrowful post-industrial

He of the Sorrowful Countenance came in regularly, but not nearly as often as George, maybe twice a month. He either walked with a cane and heavy limp, or, much more frequently, used a motor cart provided by Costco for elderly or infirm shoppers, of which there were proportionately very high numbers of in the Avon store. Avon is wedged between Brockton (and the Costco store is just over the Avon border), where I live with my mother (whose family have been here since colonial times), a truly benighted, impoverished and violent post-industrial city whose chief legal industry appears to be storefront churches, all too many of which sport an altogether delusional affiliation with the prosperity gospel (“Winners City Church;” “The Church of God, Inc.”), and Randolph, which is popular as a retirement community; and between the two towns, along with Avon and Stoughton, already mentioned, residents are either too poor to buy much of anything or, in the case of the elderly, too infirm to take much out of the big box store, other than meds: hence the popularity of the chemist’s shop, whose sales (funded largely by government-subsidised Medicare and Medicaid), along with those of the off-licence, pretty much keep the whole store somehow ticking-over. (more…)

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 3: The CDS Way Continued

More fun and games…

      Once in whatever spot chosen the advisor is pretty much chained within an invisible circle measuring exactly 12 feet in radius for the rest of the shift, and is not allowed to leave the cart itself at all without someone else taking command of the cart unless the advisor maintains constant eye contact with the cart for the duration of the walk. Alternately, one may leave without regard to the former rather annoying restriction (which, in turn, made it extremely difficult to observe the injunction to keep the floor around the demo clean at all times), but only if all prepared samples and raw foodstuffs are cleared off the top of the card and stowed on racks below, and after the cart is turned round to obscure the opening on to the side with the racks. Technically advisors are allowed to close the exhibit off in this manner to visit the loo or to go back to fetch supplies, but Marc’s sometimes savage reaction to such sorties ensured that many advisors were too afraid to undertake them even when in need, and several advisors would chose to wait for their allotted breaks to take care of such things, rather than dealing with them as the situation arose. I actually became quite popular because I began asking other advisors if they needed anything when I had to make an extra journey back for supplies, and I always tried to tread lightly when I got back there to avoid contact with Marc. (more…)

The CDS Way: Otherworldly Boredom, Unanswerable Humiliation, Dumbass Stupidity 

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

The author discusses the secrets of success in his new position, with a digression on strange alterations in the official American dialect

My main tasks were few: I was to prepare simple product samples on a portable cart, sometimes with the aid of a confection oven or microwave, but usually manually, put them out for Costco members to take at will, and try to induce sales by repeating selling points provided on a prep sheet. I was also responsible for keeping the demonstration kit and area clean and sanitary: simple enough, one might think, but, as we shall see in due course, a far more complicated matter at Costco. For the most part, though, at least on paper, the job seemed decidedly easy on the mind and muscles. As is becoming more and more the case in the contemporary workplace, the real secret of success involves vanishing amounts of hard work in any kind of creative or simply intentional interaction; instead, what has become indispensible is the sheer ability or will to withstand a truly soul-abusive admixture of otherworldly boredom, unanswerable humiliation and sheer, dumbass stupidity. And this whilst providing a service that, all too often provides vanishing amounts of utility to its consumers, even as the surrounding community visibly disintegrates round everyone’s ears. So the effect on the psyche is an altogether different matter. And while the pay, at $11.50 per hour to start, beat the average in a sector notorious for its exploitative practices, it hardly amounted to a rewarding amount, especially when a considerable restriction on hours—never, and I mean NEVER—to exceed thirty hours a week, was constantly in effect, and ensured that potential earnings would never offer enough to maintain an independent existence. (more…)

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 1. Dumpster Diving for Work

In which the author attempts to fill a new role set for him by bourgeois economists: as a “discouraged worker”

This series provides a sequel to the last one I wrote for this site, which was posted going on two years ago (September, 2015). Since the Spring of 2014, the point at which that narrative broke off, the most pertinent aspect of my working life has come to consist in the fact that what little by way of relevant qualifications that attached me to a conventional workforce then—which seemed to offer at least a still reasonable, if rapidly declining, hope of eventual full-time, year-round employment, a wage that would allow me to live independently, paid health insurance (with large, and growing deductibles and co-payment fees, albeit), and even, maybe, paid days off/holiday—had become completely and perhaps forever severed. As such, I found myself forced to dumpster-dive at job opportunities I would have simply laughed away as a teenager with no tertiary education or professional job experience, all of which I possessed now, some thirty-five years later, but to no effect.  (more…)

Anwar Shaikh, Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crises, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016, £35.99; reviewed by Michael Roberts

Anwar Shaikh is one of the world’s leading economists who draws on Karl Marx and the classical economists (“political economy”, if you like). He has taught at New York’s New School for Social Research for more than 30 years, and authored three books and six dozen articles.1 This is his most ambitious work. As Shaikh says, it is an attempt to derive economic theory from the real world and then apply it to real problems. He applies the categories and theory of classical economics to all the major economic issues, including those that are supposed to be the province of mainstream economics, like supply and
demand, relative prices in goods and
services, interest rates, financial asset prices and technological change.

A classical approach

Shaikh says that his approach “is very different from both orthodox economics and the dominant heterodox tradition”.2 It is the classical approach as opposed to the neoclassical one. In other words, he rejects the approach that starts from “perfect firms, perfect individuals, perfect knowledge, perfectly selfish behaviour, rational expectations, etc” and then (more…)

marx_3Check out some of the articles on Redline about Marx’s Capital and its ongoing relevance:

How capitalism works – and why it doesn’t

How capitalist ideology works

4,000 words on Capital

Karl Korsch on “tremendous and enduring” impact of Marx’s Capital (1932)

Capital, the working class and Marx’s critique of political economy

Marx’s critique of classical political economy

From the vaults: two articles on wages, profits, crisis

Pilling’s Marx’s Capital: philosophy, dialectics and political economy

Capital and the state

Value, price and the ‘transformation problem’ in Marx’s Capital

The ‘transformation problem’ and Marx’s crisis theory