By Sacha Dierckx*
“Neoliberalism” is a contested term. A lively debate exists on what the term exactly entails. Politically, it is also very controversial: few politicians will call themselves “neoliberals”. Without trying to provide definitive answers to the questions raised in this debate, I am convinced it is an appropriate term to describe the phase within capitalism that started in the 1970s of the twentieth century. The economic crisis in the West at the time made Keynesianism and the welfare state lose legitimacy with elites, policymakers, and among large sections of the population. This gave way to the beginning of a new neoliberal phase.
Free range for business
Neoliberalism as a hegemonic project was loosely based on the ideas of Milton Friedman, Friedrich von Hayek, and their companions at the Mont Pelerin Society. More importantly, the neoliberal premise was that everything will be better if corporations and investors are allowed to function with the least impediment. It is no wonder, then, that expressions like globalization, liberalization, deregulation, and privatization gained prominence.
Two important players within the political-economic field became neoliberal targets. On the one hand the workers’ movement and trade unions, which had ensured that there were significant limitations on the way businesses could treat their employees, were targeted. On the other hand governments that had – under pressure from labor movements – restrained the freedom of businesses through regulations, taxation, social security and barriers to globalization were also targeted. The neoliberal project aimed to curb the power of both these institutions, or change them in ways so that they would operate as per the wishes of the capitalists.
By Elaine McCrate
In August 2014, the New York Times described the erratic work schedule of Jannette Navarro, a single mother who worked for $9 per hour on a part-time job at Starbucks. Her wage would have been at poverty level even on a fulltime schedule. But because her total hours varied from week to week, she could never count on a stable income stream, rarely bringing home more than $1000 per month. In addition, because her work schedule changed frequently, seldom with more than three days’ notice before the start of the work week, she could not commit to finishing her degree, she had chronic childcare crises, and she had recurring conflicts with members of her extended family who were often called upon at the last minute to provide childcare. She would sometimes arrive at work as scheduled, only to be told that business was slower than expected and she should return home. She was afraid to ask for a more stable schedule because she feared being assigned fewer hours of work.
Ms. Navarro is not alone in this regard. Using a national sample of American workers aged 26-32 in 2011, researchers at the University of Chicago estimated that 38% of them got notice of their schedules one week or less in advance (Lambert, Fugiel and Henly, 2014). Examining a broader group – all civilian employees aged 18-65 – and defining unstable scheduling as varying starting and stopping times that workers have little control over, I conservatively estimated that 11.5% of American workers had unstable schedules in 2004, up from 6.6% in 1997. (McCrate, 2012) (More recent data for the entire country and a broad age group are not yet available.) This is not work-life flexibility for workers: among young Americans who are paid by the hour and whose hours vary from week to week, about 50% reported that their employer determined their schedules unilaterally. Another 45% enjoyed some discretion, or consultation with their employer, in setting hours (Lambert, Fugiel and Henly, 2014).
By Alex Mozell
“The worst crimes are not always the punishable ones.”1
George Orwell was an esteemed writer, political philosopher, socialist, and critic, who braved the Luftwaffe hellfire and joined the armed resistance against Franco’s rise to power. He hated dictatorship in all forms, from dogmatic fascism in the West to the dehumanizing communism of the East. He wrote against totalitarianism, and in his novel, 1984, imagined a world in which thoughts were punishable by death, while “vaporizing” political dissenters was not only legal, but official policy.
Indeed, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And those with power use it to legalize their corruption. Their touch reaches far, scores of people harmed by their maneuvering. Ultimately, corruption is a parasite, stealing much from the masses, and enriching only a few. Of course, there are horrible people everywhere, who roam the streets, stealing, destroying property, or murdering, but they rarely hold political sway, and so their crimes are reviled and punished – and very rightfully so.
By the members of the graduate students’ Palestine Solidarity Caucus at University of Massachusetts Amherst
The legal and ethical foundation for the BDS campaign
It is by now clear that there is no viable two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since signing the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 to supposedly pave the way for such a solution, Israel has actually expanded its illegal settlements, entrenched its occupation of the West Bank, tightened its grip over the Gaza Strip, escalated its eviction of Palestinians from Jerusalem and of Bedouins from their villages, and consolidated the attack on outspoken members of the Palestinian Israeli community.
A quick look at the map of the region evinces Israel existing alongside not a Palestinian territory that can form the basis of a state, but along numerous fragmented bantustans whose airspace, borders, and water Israel itself controls. Bantustans were territories set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa during the apartheid regime and are increasingly used to describe the fragmented and martially controlled territories set aside for Palestinians by Israel. The contrast between Israel and the Palestinians is striking in terms of territorial integrity and control, but also in terms of rights. In the occupied territories, Jewish settlers enjoy rights as Israeli citizens while the Palestinians next door are subject to martial law and stateless. Within Israel, Jewish citizens enjoy preferential citizenship rights relative to Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin, as enshrined in Israel’s Law of Return (1950) and the Citizenship Law (1952); less explicit but equally salient discrimination takes place in the redistribution of resources and social welfare and in access to economic assets including land.
By Ricardo Fuentes Ramirez*
Among the most interesting aspects of the current electoral process in the US is that candidate Bernie Sanders openly identifies himself as a “democratic socialist.” It has prompted many to discuss what is, or what is not, socialism. The problem is that “socialism” is a word used to refer to many different things. Here are just a few of its unofficial definitions: