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the changing natue of employment within the trajectory of capitalism. watch

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    Among my current reading is Harry Shutt's latest book and I thought I'd share some of his points. He concedes that his observations here are anecdotal and I don't know that his suggestion that volunteering in Britain as a growing pheonomeon among the young is correct (though I could easily be wrong), but most of his other points fit with my own interpretation of what has been happening in the world of work (or non-work) as capitalism continues to transform society.

    Any spelling mistakes or missed errors in the grammar are mine as I typed it out.

    Anyway, enjoy!

    ...Thus, although there is a lack of survey data measuring trends over time, there is considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that perceptions of work have changed quite radically in industrialised societies in recent years. This tendency is reflected in:

    Dissolving ties to employers.

    It has become commonplace since the 1970s that the idea of a ‘job for life’ – so widespread in the earlier part of the twentieth century in the industrialised West (even more in Japan) – is in the process of disappearing. This trend has been caused by a number of factors – notably (a) rapid technological change and consequential incidence of higher productivity and reduced need for manpower for a given level of output, and (b) intensifying competition in the more globalised market combined with rising unemployment and the consequently dwindling bargaining power of labour. The result is a greater casualisation of workforces – with a rising proportion of workers on term contracts and enjoying reduced benefits. This in turn promotes a growing tendency, contrary to what is claimed by human resource management experts, for workers to be viewed as largely expendable commodities, who in their turn feel less and less commitment or loyalty to the organisation for which they work.

    Spreading sense of pointlessness of work.

    Along with the increasing commodification of workers there has, not surprisingly, developed a sense among many employees that they have little or no meaningful role in their jobs such as to give them a sense of their own identity or of a purpose other than that of simply turning up so as to collect a pay cheque at the end of the month. By the same token there is a perception that employer organisations themselves are finding it increasingly hard to instil in their staff any sense that they have a meaningful role or motivation to work hard. (Of course it would be wrong to suggest this description applies to all categories of workers – but perhaps more specifically to the very large number who are in menial, clerical or even middle-management positions, who are also those most liable to be made redundant when rationalisation is required.)

    Abandonment of the idea of a career.

    Faced with the reality that formal employment opportunities that are secure, fulfilling and financially rewarding are becoming ever more scarce, a growing number of young people are looking at alternative lifestyles and activities. In Britain this is manifested in the apparent growth in volunteering, perhaps suggesting a perception that the prospect of having a career in the traditional sense is no longer either appealing or attainable for most of them. As against this, voluntary work may appear, particularly for young people, to offer (at least for relatively short periods) a more satisfying activity without necessarily entailing huge financial sacrifice – given that volunteers can still receive state welfare benefits. It may also be the case that many people are attracted by the fact that as volunteers they are working for a non-profit organisation. Ironically perhaps, the whole process is being encouraged by government – at both national and local level (and by both main parties) – evidently because they perceive volunteering to be a potential source of cheap labour for the charities that are increasingly being used to deliver social services which it is perhaps felt the state can no longer afford to provide at market rates of pay.

    ...

    Acceptance of long-term unemployment.

    Another facet of the revolution in the labour market is the seeming recognition in a number of developed countries that a large number of people have come to be perceived as unemployable in relation to the actual potential demand for their limited skills. In Britain such people – accounting for as much as 9-10 per cent of the labour force – have come to be classified as effectively disabled and therefore eligible for incapacity benefit, even though many of them would be quite willing and able to work if only there were effective demand – that is, at minimally adequate levels of pay – for their labour.

    ...

    Harry Shutt, Beyond the Profits System (Zed Books, 2010), pp. 135-9.
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    Interesting read. Most of it sounds about right really. Seems in the case of the long term unemployed it would be quite easy for the government to help those people into employment really.
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    The thread title is misleading and windy, and that's probably why this thread has had so few responses. This has nothing to do with capitalism (or its 'trajectory', lol). It's a result of changes in technology. Technology has led to changes in "perceptions of work" since industrialisation. And it is continuing to do so.
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    (Original post by Kolya)
    The thread title is misleading and windy, and that's probably why this thread has had so few responses. This has nothing to do with capitalism (or its 'trajectory', lol). It's a result of changes in technology. Technology has led to changes in "perceptions of work" since industrialisation. And it is continuing to do so.
    I suppose the OP's argument was that technology and generally greater efficiency comes with the advent of capitalism?
    and a lot of his arguments could be extended anyway - the part about workers feeling like they are of less value is not exclusive to the advent of technology - it's a general new attitude when efficiency is placed above all else (i.e. capitalism and pure free-market economics)

    @OP - long-term unemployment would only exist if people didn't develop new skills, but technology has been developing constantly (e.g. the IT sector) and people don't necessarily become unemployed, they retrain
    i think under the government's benefit scheme they would feel the need to encourage retraining too, so that they didn't end up paying people to do nothing for all eternity.
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    (Original post by Kolya)
    The thread title is misleading and windy, and that's probably why this thread has had so few responses. This has nothing to do with capitalism (or its 'trajectory', lol). It's a result of changes in technology. Technology has led to changes in "perceptions of work" since industrialisation. And it is continuing to do so.
    In the context of a capitalist society the progressive implementation of technology in the workplace has everything to do with capitalism and its trajectory, it's the driving force of such implementation. Do you think businesses replace human till-operators with self-service machines because they look cool?

    Your obsession with making such trivial attacks on my posts is pathetic, seriously.
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    (Original post by theths)
    I suppose the OP's argument was that technology and generally greater efficiency comes with the advent of capitalism?
    and a lot of his arguments could be extended anyway - the part about workers feeling like they are of less value is not exclusive to the advent of technology - it's a general new attitude when efficiency is placed above all else (i.e. capitalism and pure free-market economics)

    @OP - long-term unemployment would only exist if people didn't develop new skills, but technology has been developing constantly (e.g. the IT sector) and people don't necessarily become unemployed, they retrain
    i think under the government's benefit scheme they would feel the need to encourage retraining too, so that they didn't end up paying people to do nothing for all eternity.
    It's a fair response to suggest that as some sectors replace human labour with automation so new sectors will emerge requiring such surplus human labour. But there are two problems with this. Firstly, human-replacing technology tends to be implemented in any sector, old or new, where it is sufficiently advanced enough to do the job and sufficiently cost-effective for the purposes of improved profit. It's not as if a new sector would emerge and start from scratch in terms of technology, indeed new sectors are even more likely to be technologically led precisely because they are new. And remember, just because there are some sectors which still require high levels of human labour that's no guarnatee that they will not find viable technology at some point in the future which makes the shedding of humans a profitable step. Secondly, the retraining 'solution' only has limited practicality, even people with expertise in a given sector often find themselves having to train to keep up with change. I suspect that someone who was, say, an 'advanced programmer' in the 1980s, for example, wouldn't be much use today without substantial retraining in that field. How realistic is it to expect people to retrain every few years as the needs of the market constantly change? And, as such change in market needs accelerates so that retraining problem gets worse. The problem is compounded by the increasing speed at which capitalist enterprises relocate according to the relative advantages of labour and resource costs. Even if you do find some success in retraining programmes, when the very industry you've trained your unemployed workers for decides to move to the other side of the world, you've achieved little.
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    Your notion that a fluid labour force is bad is pretty nonsenical. The whole beauty of the free market is how dynamic it is. It is the only system that can act out the will of the people and the demands of the people are every changing.

    In communist Russian economists tried to artificially guage public sentiment. They would work out what they thought people want. Then tell factories to produce these things. By the time this had been done the things people wanted had changed. And if something was available it was out of fashion. The attempt to gauge public desire was a complete failure.

    A dyanmic labour force allows for the market to be flexible and adjust to demand of consumers.
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    (Original post by theths)
    I suppose the OP's argument was that technology and generally greater efficiency comes with the advent of capitalism?
    Technology and greater efficiency come anyway. Eventually someone will stumble across a tool that helps them survive more easily, or finds a process that helps them survive more easily, and that will give them an advantage over those without the tools. Since the invention of writing, and the arrival of large human settlements, it's easier for those who do stumble across ideas to tell others of their success. Well duh. Realizing that is not a great feat of logic.

    By all means talk about how employment is changing, and what concrete factors are bringing about the change. But all this vague junk about grand theories of capitalism's "trajectory" is just nonsense that provides a platform for economically illiterate people like the OP to write like a GCSE student who's too in love with their thesaurus. There's a good reason why so many scientists take the piss out of the ridiculous brand of sociology/continental philosophy spouted by the OP.
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    (Original post by Kolya)
    Technology and greater efficiency come anyway. Eventually someone will stumble across a tool that helps them survive more easily, or finds a process that helps them survive more easily, and that will give them an advantage over those without the tools. Since the invention of writing, and the arrival of large human settlements, it's easier for those who do stumble across ideas to tell others of their success. Well duh. Realizing that is not a great feat of logic.

    By all means talk about how employment is changing, and what concrete factors are bringing about the change. But all this vague junk about grand theories of capitalism's "trajectory" is just nonsense that provides a platform for economically illiterate people like the OP to write like a GCSE student who's too in love with their thesaurus. There's a good reason why so many scientists take the piss out of the ridiculous brand of sociology/continental philosophy spouted by the OP.
    i quite like flowery language
    it got the message across eventually

    so it follows that i think that "economically illiterate" is a bit harsh

    and whilst it doesn't take a genius to figure out that technology will be invented anyway, through human curiosity if nothing else, but i feel like it's because of capitalism that efficiency has become paramount, as people directly benefit from their businesses being at maximum productivity
    with e.g. a communist system, people aren't being given incentives to work or be innovative - it's up to the government, and the government can't do everything
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    (Original post by Oswy)
    As against this, voluntary work may appear, particularly for young people, to offer (at least for relatively short periods) a more satisfying activity without necessarily entailing huge financial sacrifice – given that volunteers can still receive state welfare benefits.
    I beleive in the UK if you work more than 16 hours (paid or not) then you cannot claim JSA. This may have changed (for the even worse) since the ConDems got in.

    An increase in volunteers would be on the basis of a) a lack of paid jobs and people want to do something other than sit around and looking for work b) as a condition of getting benefits - as i believe the ConDems are bringing in something along these lines.

    Its a good analysis.
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    A lot of the young people who volunteer do so to gain skills to put on their CV, and a lot of volunteering opportunities for young people are marketed in that way, along with a certificate for completing x many hours.

    This is purely anecdotal: I did a bit of volunteering a year ago (yes, for 'customer-facing' skills) at a charity shop raising money for the disabled, which employed a number of young people: they were all on JSA trying desperately to get a 'proper' job. They looked like they really didn't want to be there. In fact, the manager seemed rather taken aback when I asked her about the kind of work their charity did.

    I'm not sure there IS a rise in volunteering indicative of changing attitudes to work or a 'culture' of volunteering. As far as I know, those who volunteer consistently (or generally participate in the community) are the retired, and middle class married women - who are not prospective members of the workforce anyway.
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    (Original post by Kolya)
    ...But all this vague junk about grand theories of capitalism's "trajectory" is just nonsense that provides a platform for economically illiterate people like the OP to write like a GCSE student...
    Nice personal attack. Try to put your ego aside for just a few moments.

    Even the most zealous supporter of capitalism doesn't deny that the capitalist era is an era of change. Indeed they would no doubt actually emphasise change in that they would see it as being both significant and positive. More widely, no serious commentator, and whether or not they are a 'scientist', would describe capitalist society as a steady-state phenomenon; the evidence that capitalism has transformed human life, and continues to do so, is overwhelming. Once you recognise that capitalism is thus an historical phenomenon (i.e. a phenomeonon of change) then reference to capitalism's 'trajectory' is hardly 'nonsense'. It may not be your prefered term but insofar as it suggests change that has potential to be plotted across a graph it's as good as any.
 
 
 
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