So we are constantly told that we live in the age of Capitalism. But what does that really mean? It means that our culture is based on Consumerism. The economy flourishes because we buy and sell products. As Marx would have it, wage earners work for corporations, who produce the products we buy. Capitalism exists on the assumption that people will always buy products and that the market will continue to expand.
While the first part of this statement seems logical enough. There is a demand for things, therefore, companies produce things. The second part is deeply flawed. There is no such thing as a market that will expand indefinitely. Eventually, the global demand for say, toothpaste, will be met and there will be no new market for the company to expand into. This actually happens long before the toothpaste company takes over the globe because there are many other toothpaste companies out there fighting for the same market share. They will end up destroying each other. Many speculate that the result of a free economy will eventually be a world similar to Atwood’s MaddAddam series.
Corporations will fight it out until there is only one for each type of thing. Once that happen they will turn their attention to taking over the government to further expand market share. At this point, the compounds already developing in the states will expand and the middle class will disappear. The bleak future painted in Atwood’s novel trilogy is already happening in some areas as jobs that have traditionally supported people for a lifetime are becoming contract positions. It is now expected for people to move jobs repeatedly whereas before it was a sign of a poor employee.
In the universities, tenure is disappearing to be replaced by one-year contracts, often without any form of job security. This is affecting the universities as adjunct faculty don’t do any of the extras that tenured faculty are expected to do like mentor students, run groups, develop curriculum and write letters of recommendation. With less support from faculty, students don’t perform as well. But really that is an entire other article.
The idea of job security now seems laughable. Most jobs are one-year contracts and while someone can still be with a company for years they can no longer can seniority or raises because they are constantly working contracts. This new type of employment is a result of the Capitalist structure of our economy and help concentrate the wealth at the top. It places the onus to fund retirement back on the individual instead of on the company and allows them to cut costs.
What do you think? Do you see the same trends in your sector? What if anything do you think people can do about this worrying trend?