precarity and digitisation – it is not just about jobs

This is the title of a presentation of which the recording is online now.

It had been given during the

INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC-PRACTICAL CONFERENCE on INSTABILITY OF EMPLOYMENT: RUSSIAN AND INTERNATIONAL CONTEXTS OF CHANGING THE LEGISLATION ON LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENT in Moscow at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics [October 26-27 2017]

 

Overwiew:

The presentation is more in search of the question, not pretending to know answers.
The contribution is crosscutting, mainly offering a theoretical and global in orientation. The aim is to contribute against the background of digitisation to the discussion of  the changing world of the organisation of work and underlying process of accumulation.
During the era of ‘industrial capitalism’ the tension between market and society was by and large processed and channelled via the firm – a conclusion we can draw from reading R.H. Coase and Karl Polanyi. However, looking at some of the current trends as they are tied up under keywords of gig-economy, sharing economy, collaborative consumption, collaborative production, on-demand-economy and the like, we are facing at least in some areas of the economy some changes which can be captured by two keywords:
  • de-firmisation of working frameworks
  • hybridisation of work or to be more precise employment

What are and what can be the answers? We see precarisation as one route, not suggested but actually taken. But it is a route based on two questionable presumptions: the first is that work has to be organised as labour and the second is that society has to and can bear and even accept major inequalities.

[Part of] The discussion is also recorded and focuses on issues of developments in China..

Annunci

free candies for all

Some stimulation can emerge from this article indeed. It wants to convince us that

European regulators are about to kill the digital media industry

While working on digitisation, and becoming increasingly aware of the fact that much it means that social property, namely data, are used for private gain, I am wondering if it is not time to think about free candies for all.

[from https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–_qErm2R8–/c_scale,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/1514533461230255138.jpg]

Much of the debate is apparently misled, suggesting that we are mainly concerned with the protection of private data – leaving aside that there are some issues around this, I suggest that the main issue is the use of social data, i.e. public property. To me it seems to be a much more important point in question.

At least it is time to think seriously about the dangers of privatisation of everything, not being funny at all – this German language docu on privatisation of airlines and training of pilots

under the title

Die Schattenseite des “Traumberufs”

 

is definitely frightening.

challenges – attempts to move forward

05/05/17

Attributed to Johann Caspar Lavater, the words

Those who do not strive to move forward, are not taking themselves seriously

are at the House of Science in Bremen. It is the venue of yesterday’s symposium to honour Rudolf Hickel.

The symposium is aiming on addressing the

Herausforderungen für Politik und ökonomische Wissenschaft im 21. Jahrhundert/ Challenges for politics and scientific economic disciplines in the 21st century.

The event was organised by the University of Bremen, its Institute for Labour and Economy and the Arbeiterkammer Bremen.

In particular André Heinemann put a huge effort into compiling an interesting programme. – And actually he brought me back to Bremen, to the university, from which I obtained my doctorate. A long way if you want as André and myself actually met on occasion of the Shanghai Forum.

 

Importantly, the sessions and the overall event aimed on creating some space for really reflecting on some of the issues, allowing for more than presentations and Q&As only, and furthermore crossing borders. This did not (only) mean to look at wider issues of political economy but also emphasising the need of developing questions. The evening before we had been actually sitting together, mocking about parts of the current mainstream:

It is not really so important to have a question. Relevant is having data – and then you can define a question from calculating the data in some way that allows you to arrive at some interesting result.

Of course, some answers had been given during the event; and many questions had been raised. For my part, I was continuing [here and here frequently updated information the work] to ventilate the issue of precarity, in this case in close connection with the challenges posed by ‘Industry 4.0’. Soon an update will follow – linking to a text with some background considerations on the topic, titled

Beklagen von Prekarität oder Forderung nach neuen Sicherheiten/Sicherungsstrukturen – Herausforderungen durch Industrie 4.0

the audio recording of the presentation of during the symposium is available and another, more extensive presentation, to be given in early next week in Changsha will follow.

First, back to my students in Vienna … – teaching European integration at times of increasingly disintegrating pressures an interesting topic.

About the real realities of the presence …

… not the realities of a proposed future in the making,

There we are talking about digitalisation, the abundance of today’s society and zero-marginality, of course often or not, considering, admitting, commiserating the poverty, asking even for changes of the distribution and policies of distribution, allowing the “inclusion”. Looking honestly at the other sides, we should surely register also the “exclusion of mindfulness”, the fact that the reference we use is actually itself exclusive, establishing a real- and mind-set that evokes and even is excluding. In his book Mike Davis, looking at the Planet of Slums, we find on Page 49 the decisive statement:

“Most displaced … are social outcasts, excluded from formal life and employment.”

 – important to note that he is quoting an aid NGO.

The attempts to arrive at a really integrated approach, understanding concisely the intimate link, are at least today too often caught in a certain kind of “positivity/Positiveness of the future” – be it by looking at the Precariat as the New Dangerous Class
In sum, all these positive approaches are overestimating – for one or another reason – the somewhat futurist view, proposing some new normal, and easily forgetting that fact that for many life is still actually still “the normal we thought to be overcome fro some time already”, the suggested “historic, early normal”.
Sure, development is rapid – we find also his statement in Davis’ book:
Angola, only 14 percent urban in 1970, is now a majority urban nation. Most of its city-dwellers are both desperately poor and almost totally ignored by the state, which in 1998 was estimated to spend only 1 percent of its budget on public education and welfare. The unending civil wars in Colombia likewise have added more than 400,000 IDPs to Bogota’s urban poverty belt, which includes the huge informal settlements of Sumapaz, Ciudad Bolivar, Usme, and Soacha.
And although I think we are too often look at crude data which do not really say anything about life and what it is about here is another figure, taken from Davis’ book:
If UN data are accurate, the household per-capita income differential between a rich city like Seattle and a very poor city like Ibadan is as great as 739 to 1 – an incredible inequality.
A gentle reminder to the readers of the blog — whenever the modern and “postmodern” world is looked at on these pages, taking the “positive outlook” the author is well aware of the ore “positivist perspective”, if you want: the story told by the reality as it is shown by the far too many real lives standing behind every “single figure” that amounts to the brute reality of global capitalist development that is by no means flat and where talking about Postcapitalism as a Guide to Our Future is really more science fiction and should realistically not be seen as vision.

Davos these days …

… even today, it seems that little changed since I visited it as child. Looking at it, even some of the old impressions return … – a smallish village, a nit drowsy in the middle of the Swiss mountains. This way, it also reminds these days a bit of a tiny village in …, well, the Romans of the time thought it should be under the their rule, the …, well today we would say French would have claimed it under their aegis. And the people of the village claimed to rule it themselves, under the wise guidance of a druid, and made strong by a magic drink – was its secret really the vast physical power or more the condition that this is “the own land”: independent, hegemon not of anybody but only of itself. Of course, it was the little village that occasionally made its way into the headlines

As said, there is some reminiscence when going there these particular days end of January 2017.

I do not know if and to which extent you followed the debates – but there had been some interesting contributions made here in connection with “our topic”, the collaboration on precarity, and also collaboration on new industrial developments. And indeed, the WEF-debates showed great awareness, in one way or another dealing with the “hollowing out of the  welfare state”, the need to revisit issues of social security and even basic income .. – but  importantly all this had been discussed as matter of threats on governing (populism and “antiestablishment movements”) and the changing technological basis, not much concerned with the reference points of accumulation regime, living regimes, modes of regulation and modes of life as I explored them in last year’s book, the demand of

Opening Views against the Closure of the World (Economic Issues, Problems and Perspectives)

And of course, hope is set in individual contributions and solutions – there are good reasons behind getting Sergey Brin and Joe Stiglitz here together. It reminds a bit at the solution of the world problems that once upon a time had been announced and asked for – if I am not mistaken the same  venue: Bono (I think), “donating” a huge lump some, and asking the other rich to follow.

Perhaps it is worthwhile, if somebody has time interest and is eagerly looking for a topic for research to investigate this (well, you don’t have to look into Christine L’s moral and ethical standing …, the story of wine and water is well known, but not the other part, the one concerned with the contradictory character of the ruling classes, and its tightly knit network. A text written in German language, relatively old at this stage, but hugely interesting.
At least it allows us to look as well into a complex system that lives exactly by maintaining the contradictions as means of distracting from their true attempts of further destruction – with Trump, now the “new duce”, we clearly know what is up to. With the Lords of the four rings we don’t. So highlighting the attention they paid to burning questions does not suggest to buy into what they say, but I think it is surely remarkable: several topics topped the agenda which up to previously would have been at most seen as relevant for what had been then seen as “developing world” – surely the agenda proposed from different sides for the global north showing its own traps….
Yes, Davos …, there are some parallels at least with the little village mentioned earlier: it is a place where a small group of people occasionally meet, a tiny elite that tries to make fun of the ret of the world by resistance. Without discussing the resistance of the druid-village, it goes without mich discussion here: it is the resistance of the inner circle against admitting that they have to give up on their hegemonic claims to rule the world by exploiting the 99 % – and it is about admitting that throwing some brad crumbs at the masses while indulging in caviar is not the answer on the structural challenges …
Guess time to get back to the desk and becoming serious again … – also looking at the contradictions in the real world of industry 4.0.

“New Economics”

A standard definition of participation rate defines it as measure of the active portion of an economy’s labor force, namely those who are employed or actively looking for employment.

Now, some students came up with a participation rate higher than 100 % – first I thought it is absurd, but then I considered that it may be a reflection of the current economy, where people are working in different jobs, looking for several employment opportunities as one job doesn’t allow to “make a living” – thus a personal participation rate of more than 100 % says something about the economy today and when it makes with (and against) life …

The Devil, the Detail and the Devil’s Home

It is often said that the devil can be found in the detail – and this is not contest here as general rule. However, we should never forget to think about the place where the devil can be found, namely the devil’s home.

The Council of the Economic Advisors is looking in an issue brief from April 2016 at the

While we talk in the meantime extensively about inequality of wealth and the unbelievable affluence of the super-rich, and while we look with disgust at the Panama-papers, there is indeed something in the report that is more appalling  and actually the showing the real issue that is covered by all those scandals, clearly apparent from the report: the real inequality is still the inequality in the control of means of production though, though those means changed over the years they appearance – it may be true that

we are about to make the transition from a society in which energy was the engine of progress, innovation and productivity to one where data and the information technologies that underpin it will be the engine of progress.’

(Degryse, Christophe, 2016: Digitalisation of the Economy and its impact on labour markets; Working Paper 2016.02; Brussels: ETUI: 9 f.; with reference to Babinet, Gilles, 2015: Big Data, penser l’homme et le monde autrement; Paris: Le Passeur)

The inequality not in terms of money but in terms of capital is the decisive factor, so the analysis should really look at The Capital of the 21st Century, and not just at the distribution of money – students are at least sometimes told that there is a difference between money and capital.

This means as well that we have to be careful, resisting the attractive models that are easily offered – resisting in the dialectical way of overcoming the shortcomings while maintaining the potentials. Joe Stiglitz looked recently at the

Monopoly’s New Era

surely raising important issues. However, this makes us easily forget the systematic character, the law if you want, that stands behind the development. It is not the Sshumpetarian entrepreneur who develops with inventiveness and courage the empires, be they empires of steel barons or information gurus. As long as we believe in such magic powers, we easily find ourselves in the trap of distributing income, forgetting to consider the need to question power. Brecht’s words

The womb is fertile still from which that crept

are also valid in this context, not least making us alert of the dangers, posed by capital looking for spheres for investment and war. Indeed, taking it from my forthcoming publication “Security in insecure times” (which is linked to the presentation I made in Gdansk)

… we find as well the mention if the immediate security threat: Paul Krugman, in a conversation with Tony Atkinson on Inequality and Economic Growth at the Graduate Centre of City University of New York speaks of ‘a large public work stimulus programme known as the second world war’ (15/05/16; minute 1:18:13 ff.).[1] And in his opinion page/blog in The New York Times, Krugman contends that ‘World War II is the great natural experiment in the effects of large increases in government spending, and as such has always served as an important positive example for those of us who favor an activist approach to a depressed economy.’

And indeed, we have sufficient evidence of the aggressiveness, be it in international relations, regionally in Latin America or in the name of national democracy.

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[1] Btw, going hand in hand with a rejection of trade unionism.