[OPE] proletarianization and the economic crisis

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Thu Mar 12 2009 - 08:08:04 EDT

When I was referring to massive proletarianization, I meant millions of people (not only in the USA) who realise that from now on, they're stuck with having to work for a wage at any sort of job they can get, or living off an unemployment benefit, without any prospect of getting out of that situation, that the options/prospects they previously thought they had, have mostly disappeared. I meant that they experience the socio-economic compulsion to work for a boss or for social welfare, anyway they can, very directly and forcefully, and it changes social consciousness. A lot of that American petit-bourgeois individualist ideology accordingly which "you can do anything you like" suddenly no longer works in the same way.

According to the rich intellectuals of the Financial Times, your life is only a result of what you believe, and nobody is forced to do anything by financial pressures exerted by markets, that would be commodity fetishism in their view (see the Zizek interview). Well I can tell you now that for most people this is not true; money or the lack of it can push people around in a big way, and then you can believe any guru you like, without it necessarily making a difference. The popgroup Abba did this song "money, money, money it's so funny in a rich man's world" but in fact the whole point of the song is that it is not a rich man's world, and it is not really funny, but more melancholic really (the word "funny" is sung in minor key). There is also a bit of phonological ambiguity in the lyric perhaps, since "funny" sounds like "fanny" and the question is implied of what you are prepared to do for your money, while keeping your dignity intact.

You can get fairly accurate figures on unemployment trends by sector and occupation from BLS, and obviously some sectors (such as construction) are hit much harder by the slump than others, but actually job losses and declining vacancies are occurring in almost all sectors now. In the shorter term, the only major sector relatively unscathed is the government sector. But the stats cannot really tell you a lot yet about which type of people lose out, and how people respond to their new situation, which ones get picked up and helped, and which ones are left in the lurch. The way the Hilary Clintons see it, unemployment is just a temporary inconvenience, a small hole in your CV perhaps, but not everybody will see it that way. They have broken dreams, and have to face grim realities that you don't read about in rich people's media, except in a Victor Hugo sort of way (actually, Paul Lafargue was very critical of Victor Hugo).

Proletarianization as a process occurs both within the working class - some workers also own stocks which are now worth nothing much - and in other social classes where people suddenly find themselves in a proletarianized situation. I cannot really estimate quantities though, because I don't have the data yet. But the basic idea is, that downward mobility increases and upward mobility slows, and that in total there is probably less vertical social mobility (though more horizontal mobility).

For the NMEC Marxists the credit crisis is mainly about the "economic engine" going "clunk", but for us it's more what it does to people, the human and cultural side of things, in other words, about "labor inputs" viewed as "active, living human subjects".


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Received on Thu Mar 12 08:10:18 2009

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