Tags: Amazon.com, cartoon, Christmas, corporations, drones, food stamps, gifts, Keynes, Marx, minimum wage, Nelson Mandela, profits, workers
Tags: class, essentialism, inequality, justice, psychology, Second Great Depression
I have worked for over three decades in a theoretical tradition, born at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and associated with the journal Rethinking Marxism, defined by a revitalization of Marxian class analysis (in relation to the appropriation and distribution of surplus labor) and a critique of essentialism (in both methodology, such as economic determinism and humanism, and epistemology, including rationalism and empiricism). What this means is that we tend to see class processes as neither essentialist determinants of economic and social outcomes nor the phenomenal form of some essential cause but, rather, as the overdetermined cause and effect of history and the myriad—economic, political, and cultural—dimensions of society.
But we have never really looked at the class determinants of essentialist views of the world. As it turns out, Dacher Keltner (whose research I have discussed before, here and here) has (with coauthor Michael W. Kraus) done just that. And the results are fascinating.
What psychologists Keltner and Kraus (behind a paywall) find is that social class is correlated with both essentialist conceptions of class and beliefs in a just world—and that the belief in a just world, in turn, reinforces essentialist conceptions of class. In other words, they found that upper-class individuals (as measured by subjective ranking rather than so-called objective criteria, such as income) were more likely to endorse the idea, first, that social class is an inherent, stable, and biologically determined social category and, second, that society is fair and just relative to their lower-class counterparts. Those on the other end tended to view the world through a different, social constructivist lens, that is, the view that “social class is based on changeable, external social forces.”
In addition, Keltner and Kraus report that class-based differences in social perception affect beliefs about social justice: lower-class individuals tend both to support less punishment and, when they endorse it, punishment based on restoration as against retribution more than their upper-class counterparts.
And their conclusion?
The current results provide some initial evidence suggesting that essentialist beliefs are associated with justifying and legitimizing an individual’s own position in society and raise the possibility that these beliefs will also increase justification of unfairness in the distribution of economic and social resources: That essentialist beliefs endorsed by upper-class individuals were associated with failing, rather than rehabilitating, academic cheaters suggests that one way in which individuals can maintain current societal structure is through the use of essentialist beliefs. Future research is necessary to determine what other legitimizing behaviors high-status individuals may engage in to constrain upward mobility in society (e.g., opposition to affirmative action programs) and whether essentialist conceptions of social categories explain this behavior.
As well, endorsing social constructivist beliefs—beliefs that social class is based on changeable, external social forces—led to the favoring of social policies related to academic policy and judicial procedure that focus on rehabilitating individuals. Perhaps social constructivist views, endorsed by lower-class rank individuals, may increase optimism among these individuals with regard to overcoming current financial hardship, future career opportunities, or even the economic advancement of future generations.
Clearly, different conceptions of the determinants of social class have important implications for economic and social policy, including approaches to criminal justice. And, as economic and social inequalities widen and we remain mired in the Second Great Depression, we need to move beyond the tendency to neglect or overlook the role of class and essentialism in determining (and, of course, being determined by) the policies that got us into this mess in the first place.
Tags: capitalism, cooperatives, enterprises, globalization, richard wolff, unions, United States, workers
From Edward Lambert, who writes:
Richard Wolff is on fire here. He is explaining the cooperative model and why it will save the US. I have never seen a better video on the subject. This video should be required listening for all economists. The ideas presented should be reflected upon and understood.
Tags: cartoon, CEOs, inequality, minimum wage, poor, rich, wealth
Tags: banking, CEOs, fast food, Only in America, retail, wages, workers
Yesterday, thousands of fast-food and retail workers went on strike across the United States in a signal of the growing demand for action on income equality.
But they’re not the only workers who are being paid povery-level wages. According to a new report released by the Committee for Better Banks [pdf], almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by. At the same time,
The top fifty financial CEOs’ compensation collectively rose by 26% in 2010 and by 20.4% in 2011. According to a report by SNL Financial, the median CEO pay for the securities industry in general jumped overall 22 percent in 2012.
- Although Bank of America’s stock fell 58% in 2011, Brian Moynihan, the bank’s CEO, earned $8.1 million for the year. In 2012, his pay package rose to $12 million.73
- While in 2011 Goldman Sach’s stock plunged 45.6 percent, CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s compensation rose to $16.2 million.74 In 2012, he was awarded $21 million, including $13 million in restricted stock.
- Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase’s compensation increased in 2011 to $23 million as the bank’s stock fell 20%. Dimon’s salary was only reduced after admitting wrongdoing when in May of 2012 JPMorgan’s stock dropped more than 10 percent in two days.
- Despite the fact that Citigroup was in the midst of letting go of thousands of workers, it let Vikram Pandit leave his post as CEO with a hefty $6.7 million bonus in 2012.
Tags: apartheid, inequality, Nelson Mandela, racism, RIP, South Africa
I won’t attempt to add to the list of superlatives that have been attached to the life and work of Nelson Mandela, who is today being appropriately recognized and celebrated—except to note that many of those grand adjectives and phrases are being issued by representatives of countries that once branded him a terrorist and of universities, corporations, and other entities that for many years refused to support the anti-apartheid movement.
We also need to remember that South Africa was—and remains, 19 years after the end of apartheid—one of the world’s most unequal societies. According to a very careful study conducted by South African economist and former student Murray Leibbrandt (with Ingrid Woolard, Arden Finn, Jonathan Argent),
184. . . .the long-run development trajectory in South Africa has been one that has generated a very high-inequality society with a strong racial component to this inequality. The bottom half of the income distribution was reserved for black South Africans and, at any of a wide range of poverty lines, poverty was dominated by black South Africans. Historically this was the result of active racial privileging and discrimination in state policy. Even without the direct racial interventions in the labour market such as the reservation of jobs that took place under Apartheid, the racial biases in determining where people were allowed to live and in the education, health and social services policy matrix would have created a workforce with racially skewed human capital and spatial characteristics. Such spatial and human capital legacies leave a very long-run footprint and these processes are hard to reverse. They should not have been expected to disappear at the dawning of democratic government in South Africa. . .these factors have continued to exert an influence on South Africa’s development path. It is not just the case that the 15 years since the democratic transition is not enough time for these factors to work their ways out of South African society: it is a much more dynamic and daunting process than this.
185. While we observe a decline in the importance of between-race inequality, within-race inequality has risen sharply and this has been strong enough to stop South Africa’s aggregate inequality from falling. It should be noted that while the between-race component of inequality has fallen, it remains remarkably high by international norms and its decline has slowed since the mid 1990s. Moreover, the bottom deciles of the income distribution and the poverty profile are still dominated by Africans and racial income shares are far from proportionate with population shares. Nonetheless, South Africa’s changing population shares imply that a policy focus on race-based redistribution will become increasingly limited in the future as the foundation for further broad-based social development.