Friday, June 25, 2010

Knowledge-base Tool Kit: Social Bargaining positions

Image caption: Cartoon inspired by artwork of Scott Adams, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

In the existing interconnected global social complex, there are two main types of business entities: 1) Owners and/or overseers of profit-driven concerns that supply commodities of various forms, and 2) suppliers of labor. The former group ranges from financiers to the management of manufacturing, service and retail concerns, while the latter essentially comprises of the wage-worker. The global social setup is of course complex enough to obscure the obviousness of its interconnected business relations in all its facets to an ordinary observer, beyond that observer's own immediate role in society and relations directly linked to that, e.g. employer-employee social, where does that leave an ordinary wage-worker?

The complex's setup is shaped in a way that overwhelmingly serves the interests of the former group than the latter group. This places elements of the former group in a better position to bargain in the 'buyer-seller' social relations than the latter group. For instance, even though the wage-worker actually owns labor that he/she supplies to a business concern, the wage-worker actually ends up "selling" that labor at a loss; this is the reverse for the business concern. Think about it: Would a profit-driven concern buy the labor (a.k.a. "hire" or "employ") of a wage-worker, if its management thought that the worker would be paid the actual value or more than the value of his/her labor, rather than under the value of labor? Conventional wisdom says "not a chance". In most cases, a wage worker is paid considerably less than what their labor's worth; otherwise, chances are that a wage-worker would not be retained for employment, i.e. should a business concern determine that the worker is being paid at or more than the value of his/her labor. Yet, profit-driven concerns turn around and sell the "fruits" of this labor—i.e. the "finished goods" that emerge out of such laborat values many times over the actual value of the "finished" good or service.

When a person goes to a retail store, for example, he/she is never likely to buy any product at its actual value, no matter how "attractive" or how much of a "good deal" it may seem. A "customer" is therefore more than likely going to pay for the good at a value obviously more worth than the product itself. At some point or another, a "customer" may have even convinced him/herself that he/she had managed to "bargain" his/her way into a deal that essentially amounts to a "steal" in his/her favor. The odds of that happening, however, is virtually next to nil. Rather, what a customer ends up paying for a "finished" good or service is more than likely the value that represents the slashing of the extravagant profit surplus to a more "manageable" margin of profit, at a time it is deemed necessary to make such a move so as to stimulate further sales of the good or service in question. Thus, the "steal" still goes to the owners or management of business concerns selling the good rather than the customer, as the customer is still inclined to pay for an item at a value more than its worth, even when the price is slashed. In other words, the profit is slashed but not eliminated! The wage-worker, in contrast, "sells" his/her labor generally under its true value but is then obligated to pay for essentials and non-essentials of his/her livelihood at profit levels to management of businesses. 

Caste-ism is also another means by which owners/management of business concerns gain grounds at the "bargaining table" of socio-economic relations. Generally, when "casteism" is uttered, many immediately think of a social system existing in the Indian sub-continent. However, there is more than one form of "casteism"; "western" created "racialism" is a good example of "casteism". Casteism is generally implemented through nationalism of various forms by aristocrats, theocrats, and trade/workers' unions: There is international nationalism, i.e. between competing countries or nation-states, where 'casteism' is encouraged and implemented through governments and management of workers' unions, and then, there is intra-nationalism, generally implemented through discrete social "interest" groups like ethno-supremacists of various stripes on one hand, so as to push through what amounts to caste-social privilege that is tied to a racialist hierarchy, and the financial and military brass plutocrats on the other hand, so as to push through the interests of their social class at the government level.

All caste systems are conceived as a means to hand out gratuitous social "entitlements" or privileges to caste-members of the exercising 'interest' group over "others" or "outsiders", essentially through a divide and rule strategy. Caste systems running on slogans of religious and ethnicand sometimes economic-classsupremacy generally justify gratuitous social privilege as the ends of "birth right" or "divine right" of the social unit in which one was or is born into, while generic caste systems justify gratuitous social entitlements as the "deserved right" of the wealthy class at the expense of the "others". In other words, all caste systems despite their self-professed nationalist ideological priorities, ultimately lead to class stratification on economic lines.

What these caste systems do, as noted above [recap: divide and rule strategy], is to segregate society into competing disparate social units that is manageable to preside over by the exercising 'interest' group. The exercising 'interest' group relies on intellectually-backward social elements of society and social reactionary to push through its class interests, which usually involves the fomenting of hostility between discrete "caste units", with affiliates of one caste alienating persons ascribed to other castes, presumably because the latter is perceived as an obstructant to the "birth-right" economic progression and attainment of social "entitlements" by the former.

Many of us are guilty of caste-mentality to differing degrees at one point or another, whether or not we consciously acknowledge it. For instance, whenever one feels good about themselves presumably because some other personality that one has ascribed to his/her own "kind" or caste [i.e. to the exclusion of folks ascribed to "other" castes] is credited with a marvelous "world-changing" invention, that oneself is guilty of promoting association by caste.

Whenever one roots for and even takes credit for the winning of their national World Cup team, Olympics team, or whatever else have you team, they are doing so through 'association by caste' mentality. For instance, how many times has one heard someone saying "We won", even though that someone him/herself was not physically in the game, but simply sitting on the sidelines cheer-leading out loud while other folks do the actual work on the ground; where does the "we" come from?

How many times has one heard someone say "we landed man on the moon", "we invented agriculture, writing, the car, plane, etc", "we had the first civilization" or that "the first civilization occurred on so and so continent [that "I"—i.e. the advocate—associate with]", "statistics show that we have better IQ scores than so and so race or group of people", "so and so genetic marker originated in so and so territory [that "I" associate "myself" with]", "so and so has caucasoid [or negroid, or yet mongoloid] features", and the list goes on, often to the exclusion of people of a different "race", "nationality" or "group", even though that someone who is saying these sort of things may not personally be responsible for any of these achievements or qualities? If the reader has uttered anything like these examples aloud at some point in his/her lifetime, or even consciously or sub-consciously thought them, then he/she is guilty of cultivating an ideology of 'association by caste'.

'Association by caste' sense of accomplishments play a psychologically-therapeutic role wherein the individual feels good about him/herself and ascribes him/herself self-importance at the expense of other individuals'who he/she ascribes to his/her own caste or racial kindaccomplishments or productivity; i.e. self-importance that he/she would otherwise not feel by him/her own choices and accomplishments in life alone. This is the sort of ideological incentive by which caste system 'interest' groups recruit elements of their ideological base.

On the international stage, businesses, workers' unions and governments seek to divide and preside over wage-workers, who generally comprise the largest segment of the national and global workforce, through rhetoric that calls for "patriotism", while aspiring to gain market advantage over "foreign" rivals. The reader may have, for instance, come across expressions like "buy American", "buy British", "buy Japanese", "buy German", "buy Nigerian" etc, to promote local industry and business over imports.

On the local stage, politicians have noticed the time-tested and practical application of xenophobia and racialism. Locals are pitted against immigrants on one level, wherein they are told that immigrants only contribute to bringing down their standard of living, through "illegal" entry into or continued stay in the country and occupying jobs that would have otherwise been reserved for a local, the bringing down of wages of locals since said immigrants are likely to settle for lower wages than the locals, the clogging up of the limited social "entitlement" or "rescue" programspresumably like those sought by the jobless segments of the society [segments which are growing, and where growth has gained momentum due to the recent global economic slowdown]—which said immigrants don't pay into through supposed tax evasions, the spreading of crime like a disease—which would otherwise not take place, and so on. 

On another level, locally, certain segments are targeted for racial profiling or typecasting in multi-ethnic societies, as can be seen through that meted out on Muslim communities in "western" societiessuch as attacks on certain female dress codes therein, the negative typecasting of Hispanic communities in the U.S. or of Arabic, Imazighen and other communities of African origin in Europe as "bad" or "illegal" aliens, movie renditions of lightly-pigmented protagonist characters over darkly-pigmented antagonist characters, themes in the media that pit the "social skills" or "social etiquette" of one segment of the society against that of another, like for example, "white IQ test scores", prison population and/or crime statistics of "white vs. black"' or "local vs. immigrant", work-force and pay rate disparity statistics between "females and males" or between the "'majority' group(s) and 'minorities'", etc. 

Whether on the international scale or the local level, these divisive tactics complement one another in hastening the social position of the plutocracy to the point wherein they can effectively control how much wage wage-workers get for their labor, which entails leaving the worker with little to no room for "negotiating" the "price" of their labor and bringing down wages to as much as it is possible, while extracting as much productivity from the labor as possible. This is generally enforced through mass lay-offs coincidentally with the extraction of notched up productivity from the trimmed-down workforce that is equivalent to, if not more than that of the original workforce, while intimidating "undocumented" immigrants into accepting slave-like working conditions and super-exploitation through the threat of detention-camps and deportation, as well as using such government-sanctioned "solutions" to "unregulated" or "under-regulated" immigration as that of temporary "guest worker" program as a "safety" valve that will enable the manipulation of the availability, size and cost of the workforce, wherein employers can tactfully tread between the labor supply of both local and immigrant communities. 

Take the present BP (a.k.a. British Petroleum) oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico for instance; large segments of communities of the affected areas have been put out of work, while a fairly small section of locals and immigrant workers have been employed to do the low-cost "clean up" work. At the same time, reports of elements of the latter (particularly, the immigrant workers) being subjected to the withholding of their paychecks, along with expediently-repetitive "misplacement" of their job application forms and requests thereof to re-apply, have surfaced. Doubtlessly, such "misplacement" of job application forms gives the employers of these "clean up" crew just another excuse to cheat workers out of their paychecks.

Speaking of immigration, the current global social complex is set up in such a way that movement of people across political boundaries is restricted or stifled through heavy bureaucratization of the issuing of visas, which extends well into the subsequent path to work authorization and job opportunities available to immigrants, not to leave out hefty overall immigration costs to would-be immigrants and militarization of national boundaries where immigrants looking for work opportunities risk being killed by border guards, while the movement of multinational corporations across political boundaries are readily welcomed and easily facilitated by plutocracies or oligarchies around the globe. These are deliberate complex designs put in place to reinforce the social positions of the global plutarchy, and put them in considerably better, if not lopsided, "bargain" footing than the average wage-worker where social and business relations are concerned.

Related post:
Knowledge-base Took Kit: More on Social Positioning

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