Back when I was an actual Marxist, we used to talk about the “contradictions of capitalism”. It’s actually a handy phrase (alliterative too!) and recently I feel like the Internet is trying to stuff those contradictions down my throat.
Fish in a barrel · It’s not exactly hard to reel them off. Item: The owners of every business are incented to pay their employees as little as possible, but need their customers to have spare money in their pockets. Item: Prosperity depends on growth, everyone knows that; but we’re using our ecosystem fully and population curves around the world range from flattening growth to steepening decline.
See how easy it is?
Engagement in the clouds · Two pieces crossed my radar recently. First, Gartner recently released its annual State of the American Workplace report, a weighty slab of PDF you have to trade your email address for, but there’s a decent summary with some graphs over on LinkedIn.
The news isn’t good. It turns out that that only about 30% of American employees are “engaged”; of the rest, 50% or so are “disengaged” and 16% are “actively disengaged”. And there’s loads of quantitative data to show that lack of engagement correlates with lack of growth, profits, and other good-biz metrics.
Put another way: Scott Adams may be an annoying weaselly troll, but Dilbert is accurate reportage.
Now cast your eyes at The Future Of Labor by Fred Wilson, New York VC and Thought Leader; he discusses “three big megatrends impacting the future of labor/work”, one of which is “ the move to an on demand model for work”. He envisions a future where, when a business needs something done, “they issue the work order to the labor cloud and someone picks up the work order and gets it done.” This allows the business “to get the work done without thinking about the kind of relationship they have with the worker.”
Obviously, no sane manager should expect “engagement” from the denizens of the “labor cloud”, any more than they can from the growing chunk of the population working for low pay in permanent-part-time mode. See? Contradiction!
Hunger · You want real contradiction? How about 11 Facts About Hunger in the US. The US, you know, Earth’s richest nation. Where 17.5 million households are “food insecure”.
I don’t miss Marxism as a framework, but let’s not kid ourselves that the symptoms it was trying to address are behind us.