Top/Salariat/Precariat/Bottom - Basic Income


It would be wise to look at the current public and media frenzy surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, running for leadership of the Labour Party in the UK, in light of Guy Standing's recent appearance on the Keiser Report. Whereas, there's no doubt that the current shower in power need removing, there is little to show that Labour, with or without the admittedly good/better intentions of Mr Corbyn, would be able to make much of a difference.

The problem here seems to lie in parliament itself being permanently behind the curve and responding to issues inappropriately. In the current government's case this has manifested in the neo-conservative coverall of Austerity and punishing the vulnerable. Sadly this is a policy which the current opposition, the Labour Party, is showing no sign of opposing in any major way.

It is here that Corbyn has ignited the frenzied debate as to who will lead the current party of opposition and it's in the Keiser Report conversation that Corbyn's Labour grass roots strain of politics are identified as still not being up to the job in hand.

Dr Standing is more generous towards Corbyn than Keiser, citing Corbyn's empathy towards a vulnerable population as a step in the right direction away from current policy makers. But both agree that Corbyn's rhetoric, thinking and possible way of dealing with the current brutality of the jobs market is unfortunately stuck firmly in the previous century.

It's a seductive narrative, almost a Labour Conservatism, to hark back to the good old days of working class solidarity, strong unions and nationalised industries. But that narrative rapidly falls away when Standing points out how the world has changed:

There is a class fragmentation that has taken place, class hasn't disappeared; what we've got is a Plutocracy, not the top 1% but now the top 000.1% and then you've got a Salariat, people who've still got job security, still got pensions...but they are shrinking. The old working class has disappeared and now you've got the Precariat that has grown underneath and an underclass that has grown outside on the streets dying from social illnesses.... He defines The Precariat as: They are expected to internalise a life of unstable Labour, without having an occupational identity or career. They have to rely mainly on money wages, no benefits, no rights as such and this goes with economic uncertainty so they are always on the edge of unsustainable debt. Millions and millions of people are in the Precariat and it's growing very rapidly............

The response to this massive societal change by both the current government and opposition has been wholly inadequate; a combination of toffs and middle management pouring scorn on those considered not to be keeping up. Meaning if Corbyn or anyone else did get into a future position of power, without fully acknowledging and addressing this societal change, their efforts would be similarly doomed.

Standing describes how technologies have been gradually destroying many traditional forms of jobs and how we really need to rethink what we mean by work. For this to happen he argues that we must put into place an unconditional basic income, an issue he has been promoting  for the past 30 years. Surprisingly perhaps, he points out that one of the major opponents to a basic income over this period has been the Unions. They have argued that the basic income is an extraneous issue and have preferred to concentrate on forms of job creation.

But a basic income is firstly, a matter of justice, saying we all ought to be sharing in the wealth of society. And secondly, you cannot devise an alternative way of reducing the inequality and giving people, ordinary workers, basic security unless you have a basic income.

Perhaps it is more the mass of desperate Corbyn supporters desiring change without making the change in themselves, that spells more misery and disappointment ahead. But unless a shift is made away from really exploitative jobs of labour to doing more varied concepts of work within a framework of a basic income, we will be merely replicating the damaging inequalities of the past. 

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