Cubicle world

Let's get some things straight, in alot of blogs there seems to be a strong neo-liberal viewpoint (Slovak or otherwise), so although i consider myself a centrist I feel obliged to put the case for the other side of the argument.

Historically treadmills were big wheels, like old-fashioned water wheels, powered by the weight of prisoners endlessly walking forward and, of course, getting nowhere.

Today we're virtual prisoners, chained in our cubicles, toiling to further corporate profits.

To compensate for the boredom and futility of work we chase the 'rewards' of consumerism, the existential emptiness inside is filled up with huge quantities of food and comfort snacking as well as borrowing more money to buy status symbols, and then have to work harder to pay off our debts

Just compare the obesity statistics between USA and Canada (a country with much more left wing policies and an emphasis on quality of life) Prisoners used to know all about treadmills. They were big wheels, like old-fashioned water wheels, powered by the weight of prisoners endlessly walking forward and, of course, getting nowhere.

Can this be a coincidence, the more right wing or liberal the job market the more the obesity seems to take hold
The turning wheel held several prisoners, all treading forward for hours on end. It was used to power other machines.

But really it was a form of punishment.

Has much changed? Today we're virtual prisoners, chained in our cubicles, toiling for 'the man'. We're replacable pawns to further profits. Yet, there's no revolution, no anger, no challenge to the status quo. We accept our lot, programmed to obey authority.

Wasn't that what school was all about? Sitting behind a desk for six hours, mindlessly bored. Just being 'trained' to fit into the new-style treadmill of work.

Got to work hard in school and get good grades so you can get a good job so you can buy everything you want... and if you don't get a 'proper' job, you're a 'failure'.

To compensate for the boredom and futility of work we chase the 'rewards' of consumerism, borrow more money to buy status symbols, and then have to work harder to pay off our debts. Life is a bitch and then you die. [1]

Management by Stress
Bosses and neoliberal ideologues tell us modern capitalism has changed our lives and the way that we work.

According to them, the world of work has changed dramatically since the years of poverty, lack of control and constant work that characterised the lives of workers at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

But the world of work hasn't changed that much, as many workers could testify.
How many of us have had to put up with Human Resource Management? Workers have become used to "key performance indicators", "team working', "appraisals" and a whole battery of measures that go under the rubric of "flexibility" and "modernisation".

Modernisation means more exploitation. Karl Marx described this process as the bosses' desire to "fill up the pores of the working day".

He wrote in the mid-19th century about the brutal effect this has on people's lives: "It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight.

"It haggles over a mealtime, incorporating it where possible with the process of production itself. It reduces the sound sleep to just so many hours of torpor as the revival of an organism, absolutely exhausted, renders essential."

That is a description which is just as relevant today, whether you are a slave to a factory production line or to a computer in a call centre. [2]

The World Isn't Flat
The vision of the globalized world that Thomas Friedman offers in his book [The World is Flat - A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century] is a rose-tinted, cheery, bullish version, one that has little to do with reality, according to the authors.

Friedman's 'golf course account' of globalization revels in accounts of successful businesses and people. Friedman proffers a vision of a globalized world that has an essentially 'flat' meritocratic global playing field, and provides limitless opportunities for profit for people who are intelligent or who choose to invest in schooling.

He seasons his 'analysis' with accounts of his unmitigated fascination with gadgetry, and unbridled confidence in technology. Friedman's conjuring of this globalized world is in fact so utopic that even the familiar hindersome 'olive tree' is missing.

Only rearing up its head in the Middle East to let you in on the fact that its only the backward culture that's holding the Arab civilization back from the wonderful riches of the flat world.
There are no losers in Friedman's flat world - only people for whom it may take a little longer to get their piece of the pie, for example the Chinese sweatshop worker who saves up to educate his kids who then go on to get better jobs and better pay. Of course, Friedman is wrong.

Globalization is a highly complex interaction of forces. Not only does it exhibit integration, it also exhibits disintegration. It is rooted in cooperation--and it is rooted in violence.
For some, it represents the triumph of free-market capitalism over communism, ushering in democracy, world peace and universal prosperity.

For others, it represents conflict, unbridled greed, deregulated corporate power, and an utter disregard for humanity."

There are the shrinking white collar jobs, the vanishing health and retirement benefits, and the simultaneous mass exploitation of the poor in the global third world.

This attrition, this slide to the bottom, on both sides of the globe, argue the authors, is due to one single mechanism - the transnational corporations whose gargantuan profits have been fuelled by leeching the job security from the white collar workers in the west and extorting labor and resources from the unprivileged.

The Profits of Exploitation
Wal-Mart—the largest private retailer in the United States—is about to completely change the system it uses for scheduling workers’ shifts.

Last year, the company implemented the new system for a portion of its workers, including cashiers and office personnel. This year, Wal-Mart will begin using the system for all of its 1.3 million workers.

The system, developed by Kronos Inc., uses data from previous years along with new information on individual store sales, transactions, units sold and customer traffic to create a "cost-cutting" schedule.

Workers will now be asked to work shifts during those times in which potential profits are the highest.

Wal-Mart is not alone in implementing the so-called scheduling optimization system. Payless Shoe Source expects to have this system in 300 of its 4,000 stores by the end of January 2007. RadioShack and Mervyns are also implementing the new system.

Nikki Baird of Forrester Research said, "There's been a new push for labor optimization."
"Labor optimization" is a euphemism for an attack on worker rights. While the implementation of this system is a new tactic in the bosses’ constant drive to increase the exploitation of workers, it is anything but a new push.

The bosses must compete with each other to constantly increase the rate of profit. They consistently work to undermine workers’ job stability, wages and benefits while increasing their workloads.

Wal-Mart is also an example of the criminality of the entire capitalist class. Along with hundreds of other companies like it, Wal-Mart is guilty of stealing millions of dollars in unpaid wages and benefits from workers. [4]

The Corporate Cube-Farm
It is the right of working people to have jobs free of exploitation.
The sweat shop of old has now become the corporate cube-farm where employees are still required to work long hours without sufficient pay.
Instead of paying workers by the hour, the corporations came up with the ego-assuaging idea of designating nearly all positions as "salaried" which means they are free of overtime costs.
Workers are laid off, their pensions diverted to deceptive "401K" plans that often means they will not be free to retire ~ ever.

CEOs of corporations drive Jaguars and send their kids to Harvard while low-wage workers wonder how to feed their kids and get medical care.

Most people at all ranges of the socio-economic scale work long hours, denying them adequate time to nurture their family lives.

Kids are stuck in impersonal day care centers where mothers and fathers have little input into their upbringing. Day care workers promote capitalistic and consumerist values to the children.
Now we go into the next phase of worker exploitation called "globalization". Worker security is forfeited in the name of corporate profit while workers in third world countries are exploited without even the minimal protections of workers in the US.

The propaganda machine cranks out endless justifications, all of them cloaked in positive language, to make this sound like "progress". [5]

The Unending Benefits of Capitalism [for a Few]
In December, 2006, Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street financial services company, announced a sixteen and a half billion dollar bonus for its 26,500 employees, an average of $623,418 per employee. Their newly appointed CEO received a bonus of $52,000,000.
With the rain of riches falling upon Wall Street these days, the practice of distributing rewards at the top is picking up steam.

CEOs and executives at Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley are receiving bonuses as high as $60 million. The manna from heaven continues to fall, and the optimists just want to let the good times roll. They see the benefits of Capitalism unending. Halleluiah! We're on a bonus march!
If Karl Marx were alive and well today, and living in America, he might not even recognize the economic system that he critiqued and analyzed in Das Kapital, when he wrote it in 1867. It wasn't a bad call.

Starting with primitive capital accumulation to feed the Industrial Revolution, small commodity production developed. It was a snowball rolling down hill. Mergers and acquisitions were the inevitable result.

Monopoly, imperialism and war followed, stimulated by the grab for raw materials from less developed areas around the world. The creation of surplus value and profit, of course, was the key to it all.

Marx might not have believed the working class would have allowed it to have gotten this bad. The amount of profit being raked in by the corporate class is obscene. It certainly would have boggled his mind.

The coming world economic crisis is long past due. It wouldn't be just a stock market crash. It would be the total collapse of the house-of-cards still called "capitalism" today.
All that is needed is a single spark-like China calling in its paper-the debt that the US has accumulated to finance the Iraq war and other catastrophes.

When the collapse comes, the question is, will there be enough time and enough of the natural world left to start rebuilding a new kind of society that has been demonized for generations called "socialism".

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Macko. Very nice. Given the slant, you might like to read some of the posts on my other blog?:

    - Escaping the matrix

    - The Corporation

    - Developed?

    - In Memory of Dorothy Stang

    - Food Miles or Fair Miles

    - Soil - Our Financial Institution

    etc, etc...