News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: The New Marketplace

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The New Marketplace

The way that the modern economy works is to tear away the social net that was created during the 50s and 60s to give the impression that capitalism was not simply benefiting the rich. The power of unions was able to produce this compromise. It also gave the impression that the owners could provide a paternalistic care of those who couldn't make it in the economy. Government served as big daddy, yet the economic conditions that created these results was never adequately addressed.

Divorce itself is case in point. According to many surveys, the number one cause of divorce is financial problems. With both parents working and barely able to make it, the bills and debts grow until they finally cannot deal with them, resulting in tremendous emotional and spiritual disarray. A simple example of this is the fact that divorces increase, as does spousal abuse, after layoofs and "downsizing" occur.

The "pathologies" themselves are not the cause of American decline--what is the etiology of these pathologies? They must have a cause somewhere, or do you simply see them as physico-chemical imbalances or some such disorder? Even were this true, however, it would not account for the other "social" ills that you say are caused by pathologies.

There is much evidence to show that church attendance and growth in churches follow patterns of economic downturn. But it is not simply downturn that Sennett is talking about. He provides economic figures showing the growing disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom. The middle-class is shrinking and even there, once a person gets past a certain age, if one has not "made it" the chances of them succeeding begin to lessen.

One can talk about low unemployment, but these are figures that show most workers nowadays are working in jobs that pay lower than those in the past when you adjust for inflation. Even families with two wage earners are earning less than one wage earner did during the 50s.

People are doing without healthcare and many of the benefits provided in the past by the paternalistic corporations. Pensions are almost nonexistent, replaced by 401K plans that often matches little from the corporation. Indeed, how can you afford to put much into a 401K plan when you can barely make ends meet otherwise?

All of these phenomena create ethical and psychological issues for people. Instead of blaming the corporation, however, the psychological mechanism is in place to blame oneself for work failings. Because power is hidden and even a manager in a corporation is not aware of the reasons for decisions, the individual worker is left with the illusion that s/he is the cause for his or her own failings at work. The cant provided on the job about self-fulfillment and finding oneself in one's job just doesn't pan out.

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