Monday, March 20, 2017

The Global Industrial Working Class — Alejandro Reuss interviews Immanuel Ness

Alejandro Reuss: You’ve written that there are more industrial workers in the world today than ever before. Can you explain how that growth has occurred and how it has reshaped the world’s industrial working class in recent decades?
Immanuel Ness: Yes, there are two major factors. The first is the deindustrialization of the traditional industries in North America and Western Europe—garment manufacturing, electronics, automobiles and other heavy industry—and the relocation of those industries in the global South—Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia, as well as to some extent Latin America. As a consequence, the latter regions have become major centers of production and export. And as part of that, the number of manufacturing workers there has grown dramatically.
The second factor is that, within industrializing countries like India, China, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, there has been a dramatic urbanization forced by the end of productive farming in rural areas. Many of the working peasants have been moving into urban centers where there are concentrations of industry. So while many in North America and Western Europe would say “the industrial working classes is virtually dead,” I would make the case that there are in fact more industrial workers on the planet today than anytime in human history.
Roughly speaking, the industrial working class has grown over the last 50 years from somewhere around 200 million to nearly a billion people. Of course, that doesn’t include other workers outside of manufacturing. The process has been unrelenting, and is bringing a number of Marxist arguments about capitalist globalization to fruition: Workers are engaged in very significant industrial struggles in places like New Delhi, Shenzhen, Cairo, and beyond....
I would argue that there are leading imperialist powers—the United States, especially—that engage in economic forms of imperialism and ensure that it takes place through military expansion and financialization.…
There is a form of financialization that starts from the early 20th century, when German banks were investing in Russia, and now we have this taking place on a global scale. And in many ways, it is contributing to a politicization of working-class people around the world.…
Worth reading in full. Is capitalism entering its final phase in Marxian terms as the world industrializes?

Triple Crisis
The Global Industrial Working Class
Alejandro Reuss interviews Immanuel Ness, professor of political science at Brooklyn College the City University of New York and the author of Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class (Pluto Press, 2015)

9 comments:

Bob said...

Africa is the last place for exploiters to move their production to. But that would be a continuation of the status quo. Capitalism is unsustainable in more ways than one. The availability of cheap labour isn't the most urgent problem facing business as usual.

My prediction is that 'economism' will be overshadowed by environmental and geo-political instability. The plight of workers is not a standalone issue.

Magpie said...

Bob said...

My prediction is that 'economism' will be overshadowed by environmental and geo-political instability. The plight of workers is not a standalone issue.

I think there may be something to that. Did you watch 4 Corners last night?

The Age of Consequences
By PBS International, Jared P Scott
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2017/03/20/4637278.htm

By the way, read the interview. It's a good antidote against the "post-industrial" nonsense that even smart people like Paul Mason have fallen for.

Bob said...

Hi Magpie,
I can't watch the video as I'm not in Australia. There's a transcript but it's just the intro.

Bob said...

If there is a virtue to military preparedness, it is that they are willing to put money into contingency planning.

Tom Hickey said...

If there is a virtue to military preparedness, it is that they are willing to put money into contingency planning.

When the goal is global hegemony, then the contingency planning has to take into account all contingencies, including conflict on all fronts simultaneously. The level of equipage, forward deployment, rapid response and training level is enormous. The US used to be prepared for a two front war, which still humongous. But now it is a multi-front war plus guerrilla actions worldwide.

Some military strategist are saying the the US is biting off more than it can chew and is in a situation involving overreach. Others are saying that the US military is simply overextended, which is an issue that more funding for expansion can address.

Trump's view on this is unclear. He takes a realist, defensive position on one hand, and other the other seems to want a military capability that can meet all contingencies.

With other countries acquiring comparable technology, this is heading in an ominous direction, with the being forced to commit more and more resources to maintain dominance, which is the existing policy.

Magpie said...

Bob said...

If there is a virtue to military preparedness, it is that they are willing to put money into contingency planning.

Very true. Besides, that's the kind of government spending popular among our masters.

In the PBS doco there's a bit where they announce that apparently India built a fence around Bangladesh. It's a scary-looking fence and I imagine they had several reasons to build it.

Still, one could say that's a form of military preparadness against climate change.

The thing is, if sea levels rise one metre, Bangladesh could lose 20% of its land area. Imagine those millions of people attempting to find a new home across the border.

I imagine rivers of blood could flow, but I don't think a fence, however scary and deadly, could stop all of them.

Bob said...

Isn't it unethical to prevent people fleeing from climate induced disasters?
If Bangladeshis had to be resettled it would be the responsibility of the world community to accommodate them. It is a brutal world we are building and preparing for...

Bob said...

When the goal is global hegemony, then the contingency planning has to take into account all contingencies, including conflict on all fronts simultaneously.

When the goal is building a secure and equitable future, contingency planning would come in handy. Ironic that we only do it in anticipation of conflict.

Tom Hickey said...

When the goal is building a secure and equitable future, contingency planning would come in handy. Ironic that we only do it in anticipation of conflict.

I would call it "possibility planning" other wise known as achieving an ideal society. Ideal society is utopia, so to avoid utopian thinking, there must be planning for getting from here to there iteratively and incrementally. There are a variety of ways of conceptualizing ideal society and many paths (means) for achieving this as a goal. However, owing to the fact that society is a complex adaptive system subject to reflexivity and emergence ideal society more a horizon than a fixed goal.

If we put the resources behind that that we do military planning, we might get somewhere instead of muddling along while assuming spontaneous natural order.