We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In Job Market Shift, Some Workers Are Left Behind

from the NY Times.
For the last two years, the weak economy has provided an opportunity for employers to do what they would have done anyway: dismiss millions of people — like file clerks, ticket agents and autoworkers — who were displaced by technological advances and international trade. 
This report provides an excellent illustration of what lies ahead for working people as technology enables capitalists to increasingly dispense with workers in their relentless search for profits. 

It must be understood that this technology has been the result of the creative efforts of many generations of working people since the time when humans first began using tools. Before capitalism came on the scene and after the advent of class based societies, only the wealth produced by working people was largely claimed by their masters or rulers. However, shortly after the Enlightment human intelligence gave humans the ability to harness nature's gift of fossil fuels to replace the most onerous forms of human labor, and technology along with productivity developed at a rapid pace. 

Out of this new development a new ruling class called capitalists took control of societies and laid claim to all the technology that workers developed as they learned how to exploit this new form of energy by inventing machines. These claims constitute the private property laws that capitalists created. (Hence it is still true today that any new technique that workers discover or create is claimed by the owner of the property on which this happened.) Capitalism accelerated this process stoked by the fabulous wealth that could be accumulated by individual owners of productive property. 

As a result we have today a tiny population of owners of all this wondrous technology and productive capacity and the rest of us are becoming increasingly disposable. That, and capitalist outsourcing to cheap labor countries,  is mainly why working people throughout much of the advanced Western world are coming under increasing attacks not only in the form of unemployment, but attacks against social entitlement programs, pensions, and welfare safety nets.

However the impending decline of resources, especially fossil fuels and the climate distortions caused by this form of energy, will be having a major impact on all our futures. Capitalists are increasingly using war as a means to control access to resources. Employment in the military is increasingly being seen by young people as the last opportunity for income security. It is becoming obvious that "these are times that try men's souls"--like never before in human history.