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society

12

Aug

Labor vs. Capital, when technology’s involved

For a recent project, I spent some time talking to executives in an industry about what new technologies they would like to see. Labor-savings were a priority for (1) safety (some  jobs were dangerous or injury-prone) (20 labor availability (varying degree of  mechanization / labor shortages) and (30 cost savings. [1]  The problem wasn’t unions, but that no one made the kind of new equipment these companies wanted.

Management Consultants are agents of Capital. We are generally hired by, and work for, senior management and other corporate stakeholders. But that doesn’t mean that we are in constant opposition to Labor: all situations are more productive if management  puts down their copy of  The Expropriator’s Handbook for a bit and focuses on improving the company as a whole. But it does further emphasize the socioeconomic and demographic divide that alienates many from labor forces and unions. I was thinking about this recently when reading commentary online about the transit strikes in the SF Bay area. [#]

Read more…

10

Jul

Global cities, global citizens: Plutocratization vs. the rest

“Our great, global cities are turning into vast gated citadels where the elite reproduces itself”

Simon Kruper writes in “Priced out of Paris” (FT) that after gentrification, the world’s most prosperous and desirable cities are now facing the prospect of plutocratization: first the lower classes were displaced, and now the middle class is being squeezed out, too.

This is bad, for a variety of reasons. But the most dangerous reason, to Kruper, is that the world’s great cities – New York, Hong Kong, London – are becoming incestuous domains of privilege, taking the lion’s share of wealth and power. And, crucially, they are keeping others away from that wealth, power, and attendant mobility.

It is very unfortunate for a society when its elite stultify and seek to preserve their position at the expense of new competitors. The same forces that keep the non-elite / non-nobility / plebes / 99% from attaining success and influence also lead the entire society into stagnation. In the long run, the 1% are getting X% of a smaller pie instead of Y% of a larger one.

(Relatedly – what does it mean when, today, the global elite is almost its own trans-national country? That, ironically, the people who come closest to achieving a Marxist ideal of cosmopolitan, global citizenship are the ultimate Capitalist Class?)

I think it is sad and harmful for communities and geographies to stratify in this way. I think a mixing of classes is as essential as a mixing of any other demographic quality for the intellectual, cultural, political, and ethical health of a place. But what should we do about this trend? Read more…