Sunday, June 6, 2010

Manufacturing Discontent

The World Association for Political Economy gave 8 awards for outstanding achievement in political economy in the 21st century. My book, Manufacturing Discontent, received one of them. Here is the brief note, which I wrote for the occasion:

Manufacturing Discontent is a study of social relations, not Marx’s social relations of production, but the social relations — real or imagined — of the people who live and work under the yoke of capitalism. In this sense, the book is meant as a modest supplement to Kapital, which was a deep analysis of the social relations of the extraction of surplus value from the working class.

A longstanding project of capital is to shape virtually every aspect of people’s lives in order to meet its needs. For example, as part of the management of the interaction of social relations inside and outside the workplace, spokesmen of capital tell workers that they should identify themselves as consumers instead of as workers. Rebellion against degrading and debilitating exploitation at the workplace is foolish; instead, intelligent workers should embrace their jobs, by identifying their work as a welcome opportunity to enjoy the benefits of consumption. In effect, the circuits of consumption and reproduction become harnessed to the social relations of production.

These social relations also help to determine the quantity of surplus value. For example, one dimension of this process is the management of the burdens of risk. Today we are reminded that when crises break out, out the same workers are told that their wages, their consumption, or their pensions are problems that must be corrected.


Barkley Rosser said...

Congratulations, michael!

Eleanor said...

Yes. Congratulations!

run75441 said...

"Today we are reminded that when crises break out, the same workers are told that their wages, their consumption, or their pensions are problems that must be corrected." = the 2008 Wall Street Collapse and the resulting the Recession.

Congrats . . .

TheTrucker said...

Congratulations to you and to all the qualified economists here who can bask in your prominence by sheer association.

I like what you mentioned about "recast" class distinctions as being a fundamental problem in neoclassical economics. The neoclassical school seems to want to hide the distinction of "owners" versus "producers" by reclassifying everyone as producers or consumers. In reality land are we not all consumers? Yet there is a definite economic distinction between owners and producers. And it seems to me that it is _this_ distinction that neoclassical economics is designed to hide.

As you say, accounting profits (interest, and rent) and great stores of wealth are never asked to sacrifice. It is always the producers as opposed to the owners that are supposed to suck it up. And it truly makes no economic sense.

Jack said...

Trucker, "And it truly makes no economic sense."
It makes perfectly good sense if your economics are personal rather than societal. The social democrat sees thiings from a societal perspective. The capitalist view is far more personally focused, if a bit limited, but that greater focus is often more compelling to the general public. That there are so few beneficiaries of this individualized capitalist view those who adhere to such a perspective can more readily identify with one another and multiply the effect of their individualized economic ideology.
The short form of the view is the popularized concept, "Greed is good." It's not very much more complicated than that.