New Social Orders — Nothing happening Inequity persistent and becoming more ingrained
A major issue we seem to be having increasingly is the sense everything is someone else’s responsibility. Government has seemingly been confused between doing more with less whilst some want everything privatised. Privatisation itself is no longer about greater effectiveness but, seemingly, efficiency in making margins; witness UK’s latest round of issues. This is leaving us with bigger and bigger problems we encounter in the day-to-day functioning of our lives and work.
Here lie the issues for us to raise further questions as to the role of technology and technocracy throughout our lives.
A major concern across all states globally remains the patrimonial issues of state capture alongside the precarious status quo, exacerbated by high birth rates that stubbornly remain high contrary to the expectations of conventional demographic transition processes. Or, in other cases, low birth rates leaving people wondering with regard to who is doing the ‘menial’ jobs and where is the tax base going to be to safeguard pensions in the very near future? In a number of critical cases, this creates migration to places where popularism is constraining the mobility of youngsters. The youth are by definition very different from the oldies entrenched in key decision-making institutions. They are the dynamic actors, the ones who will revitalize economy and society, but it is difficult to determine what who will bring dynamism to matters; what form this dynamic energy takes is the big question.
Patrimony is defined as a form of governance where power flows from the patronage of those in positions of power. Anyone seeking power has to maintain patronage networks in order to stay in power. The patrimonial system derives from a central figurehead who presides over a diffused structure where people can be removed or relocated. As we are currently seeing with China, when a person falls out of favour, the wrongs they have reportedly committed are used to crucify the person when they challenge the accepted practices of the elite who control the interpretation of the law. When you are the law and no one can effectively use its provisions against you, the inertia in the system maintains the entropic status quo. Patrimonial relationships take precedence over the written law.
This area of work [which?] is being developed by academics who seek to employ fresh terms as to revisit the political economy approaches of traditional analysts. Political marketplace is a term conjured up for this pupose, but it does not enhance our understanding of the dynamics of states based on patrimonialism and clientage. Once patrimonialism is established within a society, exploiting access to opportunity becomes a formula for grabbing more, power. Once this is the situation, then critical mass of economic accumulation acts to bring power and political control into a mutually reinforcing relationship.
Precariaty is a relatively new term and has gained more credence with Marx’s 200thbirthday anniversary to redefine the outcomes of contemporary socio-economic class struggle. Capitalism has evolved and conventional class formation has not emerged within the linear fashion Marx first envisioned. The tendency to create monopolies is a function of the forces operating in patrimonial settings as well conditions where state accountability and reforms end up sustaining anti competitive and monopolistic structures. Sound familiar to any number of settings where you are now reading this piece?
Reference to the precariat emerged during the 1980s with French sociologists who used it as a descriptive term. The term is used in different ways in different European settings. In Germany the term first was used to cover temporary guest workers but then extended to the jobless; this context connects to the Marxist roots of the lumpenproletariatcategory. Japan has young workers known as freeters, bringing together English and German (free and arbeiter = free-ter).It refers to youngsters who have gone into, forcibly or otherwise, casual labour. Italy, precariato, is used to denote people doing casual labour at low incomes. Where ever the term has appeared to take on a slightly derogatory edge and this needs contextualising as the precariat grow in strength as individuals and a rallying call to movements. Movements regularly against the false equilibrium we have come to regard as the basis of our, Western, approaches to governance. Movements commencing to highlight the inertia in governance systems as social and economic systems shift at exponential rates of change.
Perhaps gone are the older terms of working class, proletariat and bourgeois which are being replaced by newer definitions and delineations that make more sense in the context of current social stratification. The example of the precariat applies to the new settings; we are looking at how we are divided in to new groupings, with the precariat people being those who are better defined by what they are not.
There are the elites, controlling the patrimonial culture we experience with the global development of trade and patronage. Popularism perversely, reinforces this group in their sanitised world far removed from the realities of the majority. Philanthropic gesturing and either government control or influence allow for good public relations, but do not alter the manner control has been focused on existing and emergent new polarities.
In many instances, the class described as the salariatserves the elites. The salariat are part of the system reinforcing patrimonial governance; they will probably make noises regarding human rights, democracy and policies to address issues of poverty. But their performance and achievement is tempered by the status quo and the prerogative to protect a cossetted lifestyle for themselves and their offspring.
Sociologists, and business thinkers, are identifying the combining of professions with a growing body of technical people whose skills are of high value, this grouping being the proficians. These are people with skills they can market working on contract basis across industries and in settings around the globe.
The salariat have set themselves as gatekeepers and guardians of the means to sustain the present status quo. They may be working for improvements for all, the present universal basic income debate is an example, but everything must be paid for and it will not be allowed to impact their positions., Self-interest always takes precedence when they control state or corporate apparatus. They ensure the proficians do not gain a position to challenge their gatekeeping; the dynamics between these groups is interesting as older proficians may seek the comfort of a salariat position or salariat use their connections to play at being a profician regularly reinforcing patronage.
This brings us to the shrinking rump of manual workers. Dependent where one is living, people are being left behind. Despite all the talk of minimum wages and improved working conditions, these people have had their lives taken from them as they pursue hourly paid work. At the same time, those in the first three groups look to ways to replace them if the profit and performance margins can be maintained or grown. Welfare systems supported people where contributions were made into public coffers to offer support when illness, gaps in work, and old age inevitably came. You paid in and trusted government to be ‘for the people, and by the people’.
With state capture, interest groups are sought to exploit the drive for financial efficiency and effectiveness at the expense of social cohesion and development.
It is not the working class, the rump of manual workers, who are now the cause for concern. The elites and the salariat have focused their attention on the precariat: they may be footloose, are often well educated, and tend to be youth with no hope for work in any shape or form. These people are the stuff of social media — and the source, and audience, of the messaging driving radicalisation and extremism.
Such messaging builds on the issues of young people, the growing masses of the precariat with little investment in society. With little or no capital and no real sense of a future, they are reshaping classical thinking about class and stratification. They may have high expectations based on educational attainment; the example of Tunisia where the Arab Spring brought the desire for change. But without the capability of delivering on the expectations of the many poorly equipped to challenge the status quo of the patrimonial system with its salariat and an economy without the means for massive job creation needed to meet these disaffected people’s expectations.
In a number of settings, people of the precariat have taken up jobs where there education is of little value. A degree in development studies is an irrelevance when NGOs are becoming cost conscious and protecting their own salariat and proficians. In the UK, The Economist poignantly made the remark:‘Work in manufacturing was something for the lower classes. In the long run, that attitude has produced too many graduates in subjects such as PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) and not enough engineers. That may help explain a lot, from Britain’s poor productivity record to the Brexit mess’
A poor degree from an education emporium set up to make money becomes the cause of massive frustrations. When jobs do appear, expectations are tempered by the limited prospects for job security.
Entrepreneurship is the next misnomer routinely referred to by the salariat and regularly supported by proficians removed from the market realities. Let us create entrepreneurs. An enlightening is starting to happen here — entrepreneurs of necessity or entrepreneurs of opportunity? Here the precariat people overlap with the working masses who already operate micro businesses, petty traders, and those seeking jobs on a daily basis. Precarious employment displays a vulnerability to the smallest of shocks created by economies open to manipulation by elites.
We must question the realism of political systems now serving those controlling the means of mass dissemination. The private sector at a certain level is controlled by a few oligarchs, despite the many with social conscience who regularly speaking out about the social malaise we are headed toward. The inertia in the system is reflected by the fact there appears to be few policy relevant decision points and political choices are reduced to new forms of oration, if not pure soapbox marketing, rather than the pioneering of new directions. Where attempts have been made to look at changes in the political set ups, those in power reinforce this inertia. We have a synchronicity of events that further the interests of the elite (although it may cost them more resources to service a wider salariat) while ensuring the positions of the salariat and proficians.
A number of decision points may be coming. The sheer cost of maintaining the machine cannot be sustained without new capital production. Borrowings must be met and if the tax revenue base is further weakened, rhetoric and patching will not be enough. As with the destruction of in so many locations roads, there comes a time where pothole patching is not enough.
Environmental issues will drive further localisation and delivery against the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ call. It is already detrimental to some of the ill informed corporates and those willing to engage in shared value will benefit whilst those ignoring the inevitable will, inevitably, go to the wall.
The capability to go micro and meso in terms of food production, basic service delivery and added value is becoming ever more apparent; even in urban areas — maybe Nairobi will see a ‘Dutch revolution’ with self production gardens atop the buildings rather than the ubiquitous plunge pool.
Critical is the control of the social platforms driving real and potential change. Amazon and Alibaba are not going to give up their market shares easily. Vodafone, with their regional partners around the Globe, should not be underestimated when it comes to control of your media. We all look to reduce reliance on supermarkets that are extractive in terms of how they price our goods. There will be alternatives when those with means see the beauty of their power is in being able to relinquish it (if their salariat allow this to happen).
The changing nature of data handling will impact across sectors. The fall out from social media manipulation will have repercussions and, although it will take time (how long is dependent on numerous factors not the least the capability of the precariat people to pressure those controlling the means of communication and collection) for many of us to see the rebalancing after asking the question ‘Who’s data is it anyhow?’
Distributed checks and balances are coming, blockchain is not the panacea; but alongside open source software, the means for the socially engaged precariat people to cause accountability will have ramifications. And this is the real point; there are disaffected people with a social conscience who will cause change. Where private police forces and even the state’s own control of armed force is not able to quell the rise of new power blocs, then we will see accountability develop from education and awareness of the (crude) manipulations of democratic processes and corporate short selling.
Our very future may rely on the precariat; the very people who are being ostracised now hold the opportunity to cause others to act positively for change through quality use of the skills and time they have or will develop. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde — The reasonable community adapts to the World, the unreasonable community has the World see the new realities. All positive progress requires the unreasonable to cause us all to open our eyes, listen to the issues before they become problems.
It is an imperative we are realistic — we are not going to create enough jobs in the present setting. As with South Africa’s Apartheid and the Mount Fleur scenarios, people should be asked to see and feel the changes that will come if we do not change. How the changes come is up to those in power — ever greater oppression or active engagement?
It is not just the future of work but the future of how we work as society; the Anthropocene age’s decisions whether to control our size or prepare to go the way of the dinosaurs. It will not be big (corporate and state) animals to survive. It will be the nimble, the adaptive, those who can mimic the strategies of both crocodiles and cockroaches. Precariat People, whoever you are, your time may be coming.
Thanks to Dr Paul Goldsmith for edits — this is a rework of an earlier article making it more poignant