Where austerity, recession and ‘regressive recovery’ occur, the experience of economic crisis is as a crisis of social reproduction, a crisis in the reproduction of livelihood. This crisis is both gendered and racialised in just who picks up the tab for cuts to social services or a rise in unemployment. Given the contradiction between capital’s reliance on the reproduction of labour power on the one hand, and its propensity to externalise the cost of this reproduction on the other, any particular social organisation of reproduction is shaped by struggle. Who bears the cost of social reproduction and how it is organised are political questions circumscribed by the ways in which reproductive labour moves between households, communities, state institutions and business organisations, and where individual reproductive activities are located along a paid and unpaid continuum. Feminism has challenged the gendered and racialised social division of this labour and demanded that the unpaid work of social reproduction be acknowledged. Continue reading
Wither postcapitalism? Across Europe, there are signals today of an evolution or mutation of neoliberal forms of governance, towards a more rapacious and authoritarian genus. But there are also signs of fragility and increasingly metastasising risks. There are rising political populisms in both leftist and right-wing variants that threaten the continued predominance of existing elites. The fragility of austerity as an economic programme which has suppressed growth while failing to restore state finances to pre-crisis levels points towards future, and even more unmanageable, economic and fiscal crises. The current refugee situation across Europe indicate potential lines of tension for existing structures at the EU level. Continue reading
The World Economic Forum knows it, the Pope knows it, and sociologists know it: this world can no longer accommodate growth capitalism. The planet has become too small for a social formation whose operating system requires the continuous profit-driven occupation of ‘noncapitalist strata’ (Rosa Luxemburg). Indeed, although the capitalist economy may still have grown at an average of 1.78 percent of GDP during the decades of neoliberalism (1973-1998), this growth came at a high price. When measured against pre-industrial levels, we have already crossed a ‘red line’ of planetary tolerance as far as climate change, biodiversity and the nitrogen cycle are concerned. At the same time, the fruits of what little growth remains are distributed increasingly unequally. While the gap in per capita income between the poorest and the richest regions was at 13:1 during the Golden Age, it rose to 19:1 during the neoliberal era (Angus Maddison). Continue reading
Let us start with the obvious: economically and politically Latin America is a roller coaster: every roughly two decades we can expect the most amazing U-turns.
When it comes to women’s status however, changes have been consistent and persistent across economic cycles and political swings. In 1990, only 32 out of every 100 women had a paid job and by 2010 there were already more women in than outside the labor force – 53 out of every 100 and 70 percent among women of childbearing age. Women have become better educated than men and the region’s fertility has approached a replacement level rate. Dual earner families have become more prominent than the male-breadwinning arrangement, and female-headed families have increased across countries to become, on average, a third of all households. Continue reading
We need a ‘relational state’ to get a better (relational) social inclusion. The traditional welfare state was based on an outdated, transactional model that should be replaced by a new societal configuration characterized by being shared, associational and relational. We need a truly responsive societal organization that builds the capabilities of all relying upon a new framework that values and builds welfare on social relationships. A form of welfare that understands that a social issue stems from a factual configuration of the social relations between people and not in their individual resources; that loneliness makes you sick and eventually kills; that personal insecurity or poverty depends on the lack of a reliable social network surrounding you; that you need someone to stand by your side when you have grown up in a community that no longer remembers decent work and you are confronting all the problems of violence, depression and anxiety that go along with this.
For the international comparison of the performance of societies I propose a system of continuous social observation, based on a discussion of moral values in social philosophy, which results in eight (partially conflicting) performance criteria to compare the “welfare of nations”: prosperity and growth; environmental sustainability ; innovation; social security by providing support in case of risk and precautionary through investments in education; equality of participation (universality); appreciation of particularities (women-friendliness and migrants-friendliness); social integration; autonomy (freedom of choice and capabilities). Continue reading
Since the 1990s in a wide range of western countries new long-term care policies were introduced to publicly support care for the elderly. Demographic changes, increasing labour market participation of women, urbanization and/or financing constraints in prevalent social policy schemes resulted in a gap between increasing care needs, declining family respectively female care provision, and available public funding. Characteristic for the new social policies is their universal orientation, however, mainly on a medium or basic level of public support. The latter means that only a part of the required care provision is publicly covered, while still a wide range of care activities are defined as a part of family – or private responsibility either as providers or at least as financiers. Continue reading
My recent visit to India coincided with the student protests that convulsed the nation. What was striking was not the scale of the agitation but the idea of India put forth by these young men and women seeking freedom, equality and justice has resonated with the people and altered the national discourse. In the words of a leading feminist writer, Nivedita Menon, they are “fighting for the soul of India.” Their youthful insurgency represents an indictment of the entrenched power system that is elitist, exploitative and devoid of concern for the disadvantaged. By energising the public debate on social justice, they have rattled the right wing BJP-led Government under whose watch there has been an assault on free speech, on concessions for the disadvantaged and on minority rights. Continue reading
Mention globalization to an economist and she will most likely hear ‘foreign trade’; ask a sociologist and he’ll tell you about ‘international mobility’.
More than sociology, originally it was human geography that dealt with the role of movements in the functioning of the social fabric. And it was human geographers who proposed the crucial notion of ‘time-space compression’ as the distinctive feature of the contemporary age, engendered by the joint effect of progress in transport and telecommunications and the worldwide spread of the capitalist organization of the economy. This compression constitutes the essential premise of globalization. Only at the beginning of the millennium, sociology – pioneered by John Urry’s somewhat visionary work – came to surmise that the enhanced movement of persons, objects and images is the hallmark of our age. Continue reading
If humanity is to survive, the future will be organized along eco-feminist-socialist lines. In this future, an altered relationship between society and nature will be a central characteristic.
My starting point is that we are part of nature in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. However ‘nature’, as Raymond Williams has suggested, is “perhaps the most complex word in the (English) language”. Its meanings are always unstable and contested. It is variously understood as “natural capital”(as in the extreme version of the green economy) or as a repository of rights, as in the indigenous Andean perspective in which nature is valued for itself, or as simply a store of resources. But a consensus is emerging that the nature –society relation is in crisis: that we have reached the limit of using nature as a sink for our waste products and simply as a source of raw materials for economic activity. Continue reading