Monday, March 07, 2016

"Capital has no particular interest in full employment; to maintain discipline among its workforce it needs an industrial reserve army. One can add that capital has no interest in productivity or growth per se either, as long as low growth and lagging productivity are accompanied by rising profits as a result of a declining wage share.
Given the current distribution of power under global capitalism, I see the possibility of a return to full employment only in regional niches privileged by a favorable resource endowment, including inherited productive institutions, and a good fit with the (changing) demands of global markets.
But even there the advance of robotics and artificial intelligence may make for a bad surprise among those who place their bet on serving as a new middle class of the global economy, performing its relatively well-paid managerial, engineering, and design jobs while the satanic mills of the factories of the Manchester era have long relocated to Bangladesh and other places.
Moreover, "employment" as we know it may soon more or less disappear, displaced by new forms of precarious "self-employment." The historical illusion of postwar Keynesianism was the belief that what had in fact remained a capitalist economy had been converted into a politically neutral wealth-and-employment creation engine, ready to be operated by professional engineers called "economists."
Capital supported this illusion for fear of an anticapitalist backlash, but only for a while. In the 1970s, when it felt squeezed to the wall, it became fed up with social democracy and looked for a way out. This was when "the crisis" began, and "globalization" with it." 
— Wolfgang Streeck , a director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany. His most recent book is Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism, published by Verso in 2014

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