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Neoliberalism must never define human nature – or our souls will be lost to its empty promises

March 27, 2014 – 1:23 pm |

The heterodox economist Steve Keen wrote in his book ‘Debunking Economics’ that the modern world has been made in the image of the neoclassical economist, leaving it less happy, less equal and less secure.
Neoclassical economics …

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Neoliberalism

The dominant ideology of modern times is hard to pin down but its influence is global and catastrophic. A mixture of bogus economic theory, direct assaults on behalf of class power and a Trojan horse to subvert democracy – everyone needs to understand the nature and influence of neoliberalism.

Corruption

Our taxes pay the wages of politicians, the police and the civil service. These people take our money and our trust to look after OUR interests. When they decide to play the game for themselves and their friends its called corruption and it should always be exposed and challenged.

Corporate Capture

Politics, the Civil Service, the media, the police, the EU Commission – the list of organisations that should bat for us but instead bat for corporate power is depressing – we chart the slide and the fightback. We follow the money, the cushy appointments, the backroom deals all the way to the top

Squashing Dissent

If there is one characteristic of the modern neoliberal era its that the establishment has become hyper-sensitive to any kind of criticism and organised protest. We keep track of all the latest legal and illegal ways that legitimate peaceful protest is undermined, bullied and squashed.

Spying

The role played by the ‘security services’ of the UK and the USA in the mass Orwellian surveillance of innocent people was exposed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden – we will trace developments of this terrifying new front in the battle to defend democracy and basic freedoms.

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Caring too much. That’s the curse of the working classes | David Graeber

March 27, 2014 – 4:40 pm | One Comment

.Why has the basic logic of austerity been accepted by everyone? Because solidarity has come to  be viewed as a scourge

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What I can’t understand is, why aren’t people rioting in the streets?” I hear this, now and then, from people of wealthy and powerful backgrounds. There is a kind of incredulity. “After all,” the subtext seems to read, “we scream bloody murder when anyone so much as threatens our tax shelters; if someone were to go after my access to food or shelter, I’d sure as hell be burning banks and storming parliament. What’s wrong with these people?”

It’s a good question. One would think a government that has inflicted such suffering on those with the least resources to resist, without even turning the economy around, would have been at risk of political suicide. Instead, the basic logic of austerity has been accepted by almost everyone. Why? Why do politicians promising continued suffering win any working-class acquiescence, let alone support, at all?

Matt Kenyon illustration on the working class

I think the very incredulity with which I began provides a partial answer. Working-class people may be, as we’re ceaselessly reminded, less meticulous about matters of law and propriety than their “betters”, but they’re also much less self-obsessed. They care more about their friends, families and communities. In aggregate, at least, they’re just fundamentally nicer.

To some degree this seems to reflect a universal sociological law. Feminists have long since pointed out that those on the bottom of any unequal social arrangement tend to think about, and therefore care about, those on top more than those on top think about, or care about, them. Women everywhere tend to think and know more about men’s lives than men do about women, just as black people know more about white people’s, employees about employers’, and the poor about the rich.

And humans being the empathetic creatures that they are, knowledge leads to compassion. The rich and powerful, meanwhile, can remain oblivious and uncaring, because they can afford to. Numerous psychological studies have recently confirmed this. Those born to working-class families invariably score far better at tests of gauging others’ feelings than scions of the rich, or professional classes. In a way it’s hardly surprising. After all, this is what being “powerful” is largely about: not having to pay a lot of attention to what those around one are thinking and feeling. The powerful employ others to do that for them.

And who do they employ? Mainly children of the working classes. Here I believe we tend to be so blinded by an obsession with (dare I say, romanticisation of?) factory labour as our paradigm for “real work” that we have forgotten what most human labour actually consists of.

Even in the days of Karl Marx or Charles Dickens, working-class neighbourhoods housed far more maids, bootblacks, dustmen, cooks, nurses, cabbies, schoolteachers, prostitutes and costermongers than employees in coal mines, textile mills or iron foundries. All the more so today. What we think of as archetypally women’s work – looking after people, seeing to their wants and needs, explaining, reassuring, anticipating what the boss wants or is thinking, not to mention caring for, monitoring, and maintaining plants, animals, machines, and other objects – accounts for a far greater proportion of what working-class people do when they’re working than hammering, carving, hoisting, or harvesting things.

This is true not only because most working-class people are women (since most people in general are women), but because we have a skewed view even of what men do. As striking tube workers recently had to explain to indignant commuters, “ticket takers” don’t in fact spend most of their time taking tickets: they spend most of their time explaining things, fixing things, finding lost children, and taking care of the old, sick and confused.

If you think about it, is this not what life is basically about? Human beings are projects of mutual creation. Most of the work we do is on each other. The working classes just do a disproportionate share. They are the caring classes, and always have been. It is just the incessant demonisation directed at the poor by those who benefit from their caring labour that makes it difficult, in a public forum such as this, to acknowledge it.

As the child of a working-class family, I can attest this is what we were actually proud of. We were constantly being told that work is a virtue in itself – it shapes character or somesuch – but nobody believed that. Most of us felt work was best avoided, that is, unless it benefited others. But of work that did, whether it meant building bridges or emptying bedpans, you could be rightly proud. And there was something else we were definitely proud of: that we were the kind of people who took care of each other. That’s what set us apart from the rich who, as far as most of us could make out, could half the time barely bring themselves to care about their own children.

There is a reason why the ultimate bourgeois virtue is thrift, and the ultimate working-class virtue is solidarity. Yet this is precisely the rope from which that class is currently suspended. There was a time when caring for one’s community could mean fighting for the working class itself. Back in those days we used to talk about “social progress”. Today we are seeing the effects of a relentless war against the very idea of working-class politics or working-class community. That has left most working people with little way to express that care except to direct it towards some manufactured abstraction: “our grandchildren”; “the nation”; whether through jingoist patriotism or appeals to collective sacrifice.

As a result everything is thrown into reverse. Generations of political manipulation have finally turned that sense of solidarity into a scourge. Our caring has been weaponised against us. And so it is likely to remain until the left, which claims to speak for labourers, begins to think seriously and strategically about what most labour actually consists of, and what those who engage in it actually think is virtuous about it.

David Graeber

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“Wolf of Wall Street” syndrome: The dangerous individualism of the neoliberal soul

March 27, 2014 – 4:05 pm |

Jordan Belfort isn’t alone: An entire generation of workers lack the imagination to think about collective action.
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Sam Polk was one of the wolves of Wall Street. In a self-lacerating memoir in Sunday’s New York Times, Polk looks back …

Neoliberalism must never define human nature – or our souls will be lost to its empty promises

March 27, 2014 – 1:23 pm |

The heterodox economist Steve Keen wrote in his book ‘Debunking Economics’ that the modern world has been made in the image of the neoclassical economist, leaving it less happy, less equal and less secure.
Neoclassical economics …

Why Britain needs to end hunger fast

March 26, 2014 – 3:31 pm |

The use of food banks in the UK is rising. New statistics from Trussell Trust reveal that between April and December 2013, food banks fed over 600,000 people – which is almost double the number …

Is misinformation about climate change criminally negligent?

March 26, 2014 – 1:18 am |

The importance of clearly communicating science to the public should not be underestimated. Accurately understanding our natural environment and sharing that information can be a matter of life or death. When it comes to global …

Qatar World Cup 2022: Slavery, death and corruption

March 26, 2014 – 12:48 am |

Migrant workers “no better than slaves” have suffered over 900 deaths on construction sites in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup city.
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Claims the world’s richest country per capita won its bid due to corruption have led …

Towards a new community fellowship between people, planet and nature.

March 25, 2014 – 2:27 pm | One Comment

I was struck powerfully by an article by the environmental campaigner and journalist George Monbiot in yesterday’s Guardian – it inevitably deepened a sense of despair that many people share about the destructive and ugly …

Cambridgeshire police tried to turn political activists into informers | Guardian

March 17, 2014 – 10:13 pm | Comments Off

A young anti-racism protester abandoned her campaigning work because she felt intimidated by a covert police officer who tried to persuade her to spy on her political colleagues, she has said.
The 23-year-old said the officer, …

Adult babies rule the modern world – its time for adults to spank them and take over.

March 17, 2014 – 9:31 pm | Comments Off

We live in an economic and political era created by the fantasies of adult children.
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In this childlike world one can live without the meddlesome inconveniences of authority, structure and choices – if you are born into …

Democratise companies to reign in banker bonuses

March 17, 2014 – 3:45 pm | Comments Off

In times of austerity, one of few things that seems to be booming is the trade in wheelbarrows. At least, company directors at major corporations will need them to collect vast amounts of remuneration they …

Britain’s five richest families worth more than poorest 20%

March 17, 2014 – 3:26 pm | Comments Off

The five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20 per cent of the entire population and the gap between the rich and the rest has grown significantly over the last two …

‘Pay Up Campaign’ targets heartless clothes retailers

March 12, 2014 – 1:19 pm | Comments Off

Two months before the first anniversary of the catastrophic collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, Clean Clothes Campaign along with People & Planet, workers and trade unions have launched  a new movement called the Pay …

I take my hat off to Iain Duncan Smith. Only he could turn a disability crisis into a fiasco | Sue Marsh

March 12, 2014 – 12:45 pm | Comments Off

The DWP’s latest disaster – a report leaked to the Guardian about £1bn of welfare cuts – is typical of the incompetence ruining millions of lives.
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We no longer discuss whether Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms will …

Inequality – not just bad, it’s bad economics too

March 12, 2014 – 12:29 pm | Comments Off

An IMF paper, published last week, has found not only that inequality is bad for economic growth but that redistribution of wealth does little to harm it.
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The paper’s authors, Jonathan Ostry, deputy head of the IMF’s …

Banking in the public interest – new paper proposes reform

March 12, 2014 – 11:39 am | Comments Off

Six years after the 2008 banking crash, there have been some small tweaks, but little structural reform of the financial sector and nothing has been done to deal with the fundamental causes of the financial …

Figures show huge rise in zero-hours contracts | Guardian

March 10, 2014 – 6:09 pm | Comments Off

The scale of the use of zero-hours contracts has been revealed after a revision of official figures showed that nearly 583,000 employees – more than double the government’s estimate – were forced to sign up …

Addiction as art: How gambling machines – and the digital world – put us in “the machine zone”

March 9, 2014 – 10:45 pm | Comments Off

A quiet revolution has taken place in gambling, with electronic terminals finely-tuned into the perfect devices for parting you from your money. Rather than thrilling you, they lull you into a calm, machine-like state that …

Cameron and Osborne can’t avoid the truth that their policies have hit women hardest | New Statesman

March 9, 2014 – 10:12 pm | Comments Off

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They say a picture tells a thousand words. And the image last month of David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions – trying to deny his government was out of touch while surrounded by an all-male …

What will the IMF do to reduce inequality? | Owen Tudor

March 9, 2014 – 9:56 pm | Comments Off

Ever since the post-war Keynesian consensus was reversed in the 1970s, unions and other social justice advocates have been lectured by mainstream economists – especially at the IMF – that economic inequality is either inevitable, …

Barclays and the sack race…

March 9, 2014 – 9:45 pm | Comments Off

Last year Barclays bank made a large profit and celebrated by sacking thousands of staff (see Barclays and the sack race).

This year Barclays made even more profit – and so to celebrate will sack even …

The Banking Reform Act is rearranging the deck chairs on the neoliberal Titanic

March 9, 2014 – 9:38 pm | Comments Off

A new report from the Centre for Labour and Social Studies highlights the failure of the Banking Reform Act to deal with any of the problems at the core of the 2007/8 collapse. Here, its …

Lets call financial ‘mis-sellers’ what they really are… | Prem Sikka

March 9, 2014 – 9:29 pm | Comments Off

In these insecure times people are easily persuaded to buy insurance for flights, cars, credit cards, loans, plumbing and almost anything else. But often customers find they haven’t got what they paid for, and hardly …

Lets stop workfare in its tracks | Boycott Workfare

March 9, 2014 – 9:01 pm | Comments Off

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Tens of organisations have already quit workfare. The government will not reveal which organisations are still using it for fear the schemes will collapse. Its contractors complain that they have lost hundreds of placements due …

Vulnerable man starved to death after benefits were cut | Guardian

March 9, 2014 – 8:48 pm | Comments Off

The family of a man who starved to death four months after his benefits were cut off has called on the government to reform the way it treats people with mental health problems when it …

New law in Nigeria could hold polluters to account

March 9, 2014 – 8:41 pm | Comments Off

Last week, a letter signed by 18 organisations was published in the Nigerian media. The letter focussed on a new piece of legislation designed to improve the response to oil spills.
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In 2012, Senator Dr. Bukola …

US/EU trade agreement threatens democracy: VIDEO

March 9, 2014 – 8:30 pm | Comments Off

A new wave of corporate trade deals threaten to increase global inequality, undermine democracy and hand public service provision to multinational companies.
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One such deal is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the …

We’re a wealthy country… money’s no object…

February 12, 2014 – 5:34 pm | Comments Off

I’m supposed to be writing an important human rights report, but the political messages around today have tempted me to blog – for the first time since the turn of the year, when my anger …

Climate change photo ops – when politicians point at floods…

February 12, 2014 – 5:05 pm | Comments Off

 

“and over here is some of that green crap we’ve all been working so hard to get rid of….”

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“and voters in this posh …

Why are the sodden more worthy than the hungry? The British hypocrisy exposed by the floods.

February 12, 2014 – 11:56 am | 3 Comments

Criss-crossing the wealthy shires of flooded Southern England go the media, with tearful presenters comforting the normally comfortable about damp sofas and ruined record collections. 
While one has sympathy for the young first time buyers and screwed …

Winning the Living Wage at the Royal Opera House

February 10, 2014 – 7:02 pm | Comments Off

The Independent Workers Union (IWGB) confirmed today that porters and  cleaners working for MITIE at the Royal Opera House have secured a landmark  victory in their fight for workplace justice that will lift them out …

Turkey Moves To Crack Down On Internet Freedom

February 10, 2014 – 6:25 pm | Comments Off

Turkey’s parliament passed legislation late Wednesday night that critics say will drastically reduce internet freedom in the country — and also give the government powerful new tools to crack down on the press.
Turkey already receives …

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