'Get a job' is the insult most self-gratifyingly deployed by many who castigate protestors, regardless of whether the recipients of such an ‘insult’ are in employment or not. This is imitated in large part by a politics of ‘job creation’ that is accepted by all the major parties. Be it the expansionary fiscal austerity of the government or the Keynesian critique of those such as Paul Krugman, both implore that it is their own logic which will prove best at ‘creating jobs’. As this essay hopes to have have illuminated in small part, such a politics is completely at odds with the changes we have observed in the global economy during the course of the last several decades and that continues apace. These are;
i) The continually increasing mechanisation of labour and the impact that this has on increases in unemployment, labour precarity, declining wages, growth and profits. This leads to an increasingly large part of the population and indeed surplus capital (FTSE 100 companies are currently sitting on around £650 billion of equity) incapable of re-inserting themselves back within the production process. This has been described elsewhere as the crisis of the capital-labour relation.
ii) With the rise of peer-production and distributed networks both offline and online, we see a new kind of non-state, non-market production that represents an increasingly larger sphere of all production. This may exercise a deflationary effect as the costs of many goods and services are brought down through certain form of disintermediated exchange. This could well lead to a massive increase in utility value but not correlatively in exchange value. Subsequently we may see a deflationary period in manufacturing and production akin to that seen between 1870-1890 and the first ‘Great Deflation’.
iii) The major technological trends of the Network Society inspired as they are by the ‘3 Laws’ as listed above seem to increase the rate of moral depreciation of fixed capital. Subsequently increasing amounts of surplus value are lost in ‘upgrading’ fixed capital to remain competitive rather than being translated into profit.
Amid all this full-employment utopias look rather limited to say the least. They are impossible within the present system and not needed were such a system be altered to meet existing social needs.
Anthony Zenkus, a social worker and college professor from Huntington, New York, who came to spend the night, said he wasn’t voting. “Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, they’ll probably rule the same. We live in a society now where many of us can afford to distance ourselves from the pain that others are feeling.” Zenkus, citing a high poverty rate and seemingly endless foreclosures, gestured to the crowd of protesters. “Occupy is basically saying, no, you have to look.”
It’s true that website-seizures-without-trials are not quite as lawless as indefinite detentions, since there are actual statutes conferring this power. But it nonetheless sends a very clear message when citizens celebrate a rare victory in denying the Government a power it seeks — the power to shut down websites without a trial — only for the Government to turn around the very next day and shut down one of the world’s largest and best-known sites. Whether intended or not, the message is unmistakable: Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.
In order to metamorphose from a protest movement into a revolutionary movement, Occupy will have to acknowledge division, build alternative practices and organizations, and assert a commonality. The set of ideas and practices built around the notion of the commons fulfills this function. The commons is a finite resource whose mode of disposition and usage is determined by the community of its users and producers. The finitude of the commons enables us to address social inequality and environmental limits to capitalist development in their dialectical unity.