Economic Crisis or Structural Decay.

Sepulveda_cloudNowadays capitalism evolves in the middle of a deep economic crisis which includes both internal contradictions and an open and somehow new conflict with nature. There is no place for doubt about this. Yet, Marxist theory suggests that there could be more to it than all of that. Developed capitalism of USA, Japan and Europe are displaying a prolonged trend towards economic stagnation, the growing use by capitalists of means of labor exploitation different than relative surplus value, the consolidation of a surplus population, an unlimited concentration of wealth and extension and intensification of poverty, a decadence of political hegemony, etc., all of which account for a distinctive stage of structural decay. This approach provides new insights into the possible forthcoming economic and political events. Decay is also capital’s resilience, resistance and global reorganization with a view to survival. It is the stage where political and military powers take charge of society and decriminalization of torture, secret jails, missing people, extensive surveillance and genocide become ordinary practices. Decay is the desertion of democratic values. It is also a stage when democratic sectors, labor and popular organizations must meet the challenge of beginning the construction of their own possible world.

Author:

Víctor Manuel Figueroa Sepúlveda
Profesor-investigador
Unidad de Posgrado en Ciencia Política
Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas
México

Annunci
Pubblicato in Capitalism and Social Cohesion | Contrassegnato , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Post-crisis work policies in the EU between stability and flexibility

Bianco_cloudThis paper focuses on the post-crisis work policies in the EU.

One of the main problems particularly for advanced countries when emerging from the economic crisis of 2007-2013 is that they find themselves in the midst of a jobless economic growth. This issue is at the centre of the studies carried out by the most prominent researchers (as it has been demonstrated by the debate on the European social model) as well as at the centre of social policies (as for this, one only needs to think of the 2020 Europe strategy and the European economic governance).

This paper is organized as follows. Firstly, labour market developments and macroeconomic and global challenges will be reconstructed on the basis of the “Global Employment Trends 2014 Report” published by the ILO. Near future projections indicate that the employment growth will remain weak while unemployment will continue to rise, particularly in European countries and in developed economies.

Secondly, an analysis will be carried out of the modalities in which labor policies are designed with the aim of creating a job friendly environment and of increasing and implementing the skills of the workforce. The aim pursued by such labor policies is also that of guaranteeing a decent work and preventing job-seekers from being relegated to informal or insecure work with little or no social protection and limited earnings opportunities. Across all countries, future policy development must comply with international labor standards, including respect for fundamental principles and rights in the workplace.

Nevertheless, advanced countries and EU countries in particular are currently facing a major contradiction: how to finance a quality welfare and, at the same time, maintain a balanced budget. Indeed, persistently weak labor markets and slow growth continue to strain public budgets. The measures taken to tackle low employment rates with the aim of rising employment levels and mitigating the growing levels of economic inequalities require investments, funding or incentives from the State, and therefore a shift in the trend as for the political management of economy and society.

Author:

Adele Bianco, docente di Sociologia Generale,
Università di Chieti-Pescara.

Pubblicato in Capitalism and Social Cohesion | Contrassegnato , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Private Debt, Public Virtues. On the relationship between welfare and household-debt.

comelli_cloudWhy do Scandinavians indebt themselves far more than Germans or Italians? In this theoretically driven paper, I try to answer this question, describing how different welfare regimes interact with the general rise in inequalities and weak labor prospects.

I use Baumol’s cost-disease theory to explain the constant rise of inequalities on the labor market, leading to weak labor prospects for an increasing share of the population. Then I re-read Gosta Esping-Andersen’s theory in the light of Baumol’s cost-disease to understand what strategies welfare regimes deploy to face those problems and to hypothesize about their different outcomes in terms of household indebtedness.

I argue why household debt is a good proxy for individual prospects and how it is hence expected to be related to welfare state regime. In this way, I try to explain the different levels of household indebtedness in a number of selected European countries. I argue that the risk redistribution operated by welfare changes people prospects about their financial situation. Stable financial outlooks and labor prospects encourage people toward debt, while uncertain perspective leads to more debt-shy behaviours. As a prospect guarantor, the welfare regime is central in shaping those prospectives.

I argue that the differences in the distribution of debt across nations follows the same logics used by people at the micro-level.

Modigliani’s life-cycle theory explains why young and wealthier households hold debt: income starts out at a low level for young adults who are just starting their active life and who face many expenses tied to housing and family. To deal with those expenses, younger families borrow money expecting their economic situation to improve.

Similarly, at the macro level, welfare can shape more stable financial and labor perspectives for their citizens, redistributing risks. Providing personal services (childcare, healthcare, etc.) or the labor market protection (unemployment, aging, etc.) makes people more confident in their future. I argue that those welfare services influence how people face the uncertainties of life, making them less risk adverse toward debt. In my example, while Nordic welfare regimes are able to provide solid future prospect to their citizens, they also favor an extraordinary increase of private indebtedness, leading to potentially dangerous economic situations.

Author:

Martino Comelli, PhD Student in Sociology
SciencesPo, Paris

Pubblicato in Capitalism and Social Cohesion | Contrassegnato , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

The far-right anti-EU agenda: Europe, nations, and transnational alliances

mammone_cloudVery recently the Dutch far-right Geert Wilders started building a pan-European alliance for the 2014 European parliament elections, with Marine Le Pen, from the powerful Front National, and other fellows from other European nations. This has caused lots of surprise in some media. How may nationalist and Eurosceptic movements gathering together with a joint political programme? In truth, I would suggest that not a lot of people know that there is nothing novel here. I will specifically mention that a form of extremist nationalism may assume a supranational dimension, and, since 1945, identifying, in some ways, Europe as a “spiritual” land, and a bastion of a type of western civilisation. They do not therefore reject Europe as a whole and support their own European brotherhood. This Euro-nationalism has been influencing migration politics and ethnic relations across the old continent at least since the last decades. Moreover, the image of migrants invading western job markets became widely accepted in some European societies. This was a reason which has led people at the bottom of the social ladder to look to the apparent reassurance of the narrow policies promoted by some nationalistic forces. Following the predicaments of the left (and, recently, of the EU), far-right forces are, in fact, very active across Europe, and, in my view, the economic situation is naturally helping them. Unemployment, strict budgetary politics, and foreign interferences in national societies are strengthening some movements. The notion of Europe and nations attacked by immigrants, banks, and EU technocrats is strongly contributing to the reorganisation of the far right. It will be, in fact, suggested how they are building pan-European networks, demonstrations, international associations, especially using an anti-banks, anti-financial markets, and anti-EU agenda, and, at the same time, offering a form of belonging and protection to some Europeans.

Author:

Andrea Mammone, Lecturer in Modern European History,
Department of History,
Royal Holloway, University of London

Pubblicato in Political or Economic Crisis: Quid Prius? | Contrassegnato , , , , , | Lascia un commento

The Lost Europe and the Ventotene Manifesto

Calabrò_cloudMy speech has been inspired by reading Is Europe lost? (Europa perduta?, Il Mulino, Bologna 2014). It’s a book composed by two short essays, written by Giuliano Amato and Ernesto Galli Della Loggia. This book is an interesting starting point to reflect on the conditions of the EU in a long-term perspective. My purpose is to read Galli Della Loggia’s essay as a source of the conservative remarks on the European project. In particular, I’ll seek to analyze the way Galli Della Loggia attacks the Ventotene Manifesto – which he considers outdatedly Jacobin oriented – and to explain why some of his comments are historically unfounded. Then, I’ll try to draw from the Amato’s essay certain considerations which can integrate and update the Manifesto’s political vision in a realistic way. To conclude, I’ll outline briefly why a greater European integration can only result from a combination of necessity, gradualness and political virtue.

Author:

Carmelo Calabrò, Ricercatore e docente di Storia delle Dottrine Politiche,
Dipartimento Scienze Politiche,
Università di Pisa.

 

Pubblicato in Democracy Disfigured | Contrassegnato , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Italy’s multidimensional crisis. Exogenous and endogenous factors

Fitzi_cloudDue to the autarchy of its banking system Italy has not been so badly affected by the financial crisis of 2007-08. The impact of the Euro-crisis was on the contrary more relevant. It involved the introduction of major austerity measures that contracted domestic demand and contributed to provoke an economic depression during several years. The European savings policies represent therefore one important exogenous factor of Italy’s current economic crisis. According to some observers it is combined with an attraction effect of the capital flow to ‘more efficient’ regions of the Eurozone which is comparable with the phenomenon that occurred after the unification of the Italian state in 1861 to the detriment of Italy’s south (the Mezzogiorno issue). The paper examines these ‘exogenous factors’ of Italy’s current crisis, to distinguish them from its endogenous factors. Regarding the latter, the paper proposes an evaluation of available data and a research agenda on the aspects to be explored. The argument is structured in four points. The first two aspects relate to socio-structural issues. 1. A description of the structure of social inequality in Italy and an analysis of the low degree of social mobility in the land shall allow better understanding of the Italian social structure in order to verify which consequences this has on the current crisis. 2. An analysis of the structures of interaction, which are typical for Italy’s society, shows the impact of social networks on the development of Italian society. Thereby the article highlights the ‘dark side’ of the social capital issue that Putnam studied in the 1970s to show which role it plays in the current situation of the land. The remaining two aspects relate to considerations of sociology of culture. 1. Firstly, the paper focusses on political culture and analyzes the influence that the loss of shared republican values has on today’s Italian society (State-grounding narrative). 2. The second type of considerations presents an analysis of the sociological consequences of the regionalization of the political identities of Italian citizens (Nation-building issue).

Author:

Gregor Fitzi, Ph.D.
Department of Social Sciences,
University of Oldenburg  (Germany)

Pubblicato in Democracy Disfigured | Contrassegnato , , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Public Opinion and Democracy in an Age of Crisis

Lenci_cloudGiovanni Sartori, the well known Italian political scientist, has written that public opinion is “the content that gives substance and efficacy to popular sovereignty” so much so that democracy can be defined as government based on opinion “founded on the public perception concerning the  Republic or  Commonwealth”.

Nowadays, this description seems rather obsolete owing  to the consequences of a crisis caused by the worldwide speculative and aggressive capitalist model which undermines the civic fabric existing in the societies involved.

The aim of this paper is to analyze the relationship between public opinion and democracy in a time in which the ongoing revolution of communication technology has led to new venues for the political participation of citizens. This situation also brings forth new dangers, as Eli Pariser has clearly emphasized in his book “The Filter Bubble”. Hence, there are ambivalent responses from  the Social Sciences which, on one hand, tend  to demonize and magnify such dangers fearing the risks of  a return to barbarism or, as Sartori states, the return to Vico’s ‘men as beasts’. On the other hand instead,  they are ready to praise the new means of communication, sometimes uncritically, in view of a greater democratization of society, thus neglecting the problems posed by the issue of political representation.

Author:

Mauro Lenci, ricercatore e docente di Storia delle Dottrine Politiche,
Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche,
Università di Pisa.

Pubblicato in Democracy Disfigured | Contrassegnato , , , , | Lascia un commento