On Friday and Saturday last week Husis was not delivered to my door because of the postal strike, but luckily it was easy for me to just pick up a copy from Helsinki center, and in Friday’s copy there was an I DAG column by one Alf Rehn (”en medelklassig professor i företagsekonomi”), titled ”Vad kommer efter medelklassen?”.

The main idea, which was appearing in big print, was this: ”I Sydeuropa har medelklassen decimerats. Och enligt vissa har samma redan startat här. Först som en uttunning i den övre medelklassen, sedan som ett skifte mot den lägre medelklassen. Och sedan?”

Well, if a professor of economy has such an impression, I certainly do not feel competent to deny that it might actually be as he sees it. It just strikes me that he seems to be unable to put a name on the phenomenon. I do not claim to have read very much of Karl Marx’s writings, but what Alf Rehn is here describing seems to me to be identical with what Marx called ”pauperization” (”Verelendung”). It is, after all, logical (and to the observer also obvious) that neoliberalism results in a concentration of the available money in fewer and still fewer hands while the vast majority of the population has less and less money to spend, so that also the middle class (which is usually trying to earn by selling services to the people) gets less and less money to hand. And as long as the government does not try (or succeed) to prevent the tax evasion which is practised by the rich, also the government has less and less money to spend, so that it cannot even provide jobs to people who would in fact be qualified to work in the public system.

Altogether: stagnating incomes, rising unemployment, shrinking social services and/or increasing prices for things which once were part of the public service. More and more peple will drop out of (also) the middle class and (what Alf Rehn is unable or unwilling to write) join the prekariat. As already seen by Karl Marx, and caused by neoliberalism and its believers. Basically very simple. And certainly a good reason to, e.g., promote Ha-Joon Chang (and just him because he is about these matters the easiest author to get hold of, to read and to understand). – And could you Finns now FINALLY get a bit ACTIVE about the matter (instead of continuing with this absolutely deadly habit of killing even the best idea by simply never mentioning it)!!!

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2 Responses to Ignorance

  1. Anna-Karin says:

    indeed! spot on! scary prospects, though, and certainly a development that is even actively promoted by the current government we are suffering under… it is sad altogether, but also rather complex. I still remember when a few years ago ECB President DRaghi declared the welfare state dead, without any loud outcry by any party. The ECB is exactly part of the problem; if they were not throwing money in the wrong directions by their asset buying program (which so far has produced nothing in terms of growth), but instead ran the normal central bank activity of buying up state treasury bonds and thereby letting states finance themselves and keeping the whole system afloat, we would not be in this stagflation, the entire Eurozone at once (then again, the impoverishment is certainly not limited to the European countries in the Eurozone). and aided by EU policies on cutting budgets and social security in all its forms, then yes, this is the outcome. And of course, if we hadn’t had 40 years of outsourcing of manufacturing and services, capital flight and tax evasion by corporations, then we would be quite a lot better off. I was reading today regarding the situation in parts of Brussels with impoverished families and youth about he nihilism that besets the young population; I can certainly identify with that proposition, as a teenager under the last depression and then faced with the cut-backs in public service etc., where there were no jobs to be found upon completion of university, either. Always the same message; people are worthless, jobs are scarce and scarcer, human capital replaceable, but most of all whatever you do you are not valuable in your own right. Painting a bleak picture there, but I really do find that there needs to be a well thought-through break with all of those concepts throughout our societies.

  2. Alf Rehn says:

    Now, now… Let me start by pointing out that a column never is and never can be a full treatise on any one subject. Rather, it is a short meditation on a topic, at best capable of raising an interesting question. Blaming a column for not covering the entire depth of the topic at hand is a little like saying that a movie trailer lacks narrative cohesion – true, but trivially so.

    To continue: Sure, one could talk of pauperization in relation to this, although ol’ Karl wasn’t really talking about the middle class in our current understanding when he made that argument (I have, as a matter of fact, read my Marx in some detail). The interesting notion here, actually, is that the modern notion of a middle class – a rather wealthy, bourgeois group which is ideologically aligned with capitalism but at the same time not capitalists (i.e. not truly owning a meaningful share of the means of production) – is something of an anomaly for marxist thought. Now a number of people have of course addressed this, among them Meghnad Desai who I greatly admire, but it still remains something of an oddity. An interesting oddity, and possibly just a hiccup of history, but still.

    Now, when it comes to the ”prekariat” I actually have some very fundamental disagreements with the theorists behind autonomist marxism, and my reading of the Grundrisse is very different from theirs, so I’ve been quite careful not to adopt their vernacular. While it is a fashionable term, I find it analytically problematic.

    As to Ha-Joon, he is a most interesting fellow, and a very nice man (as, coincidentally, is his agent!). Have no problem with him getting more attention.


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