Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Women's "Liberation" and the American Worker

"Until the 1970s, US capitalism shared its spoils with American workers," says Richard Wolff, arguing, "In economic terms, American 'exceptionalism' began to die in the 1970s" — The Myth of 'American Exceptionalism' Implodes. An excerpt:
    A profitable US capitalism kept running ahead of labor supply. So, it kept raising wages to attract waves of immigration and to retain employees, across the 19th century until the 1970s.

    Then everything changed. Real wages stopped rising, as US capitalists redirected their investments to produce and employ abroad, while replacing millions of workers in the US with computers. The US women's liberation moved millions of US adult women to seek paid employment. US capitalism no longer faced a shortage of labor.

    US employers took advantage of the changed situation: they stopped raising wages. When basic labor scarcity became labor excess, not only real wages, but eventually benefits, too, would stop rising. Over the last 30 years, the vast majority of US workers have, in fact, gotten poorer, when you sum up flat real wages, reduced benefits (pensions, medical insurance, etc), reduced public services and raised tax burdens. [Emphasis mine.]
Noteworthy that the author connects the dots between the movement that led "millions of US adult women to seek paid employment" to the resulting fact that "US capitalism no longer faced a shortage of labor."

This fact is one of many that escapes what has passed for the Left in recent decades. This wasn't always the case. Both Mother Jones and Emma Goldman were wise enough to know that having wives institutionalize their children that they might compete with their husbands in the labor force could never be "liberation."

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5 Comments:

Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Bingo! The women's movement served three critical purposes for large-scale capitalism: 1) it increased the labor market significantly and thus put downward pressures on wages; 2) it allowed large business to get laws put into place making it illegal to "discriminate" on the basis of gender and marital status, thus ending the "family wage" practice whereby married men received higher salaries if they had families; 3) it introduced a new mass of consumers into the supply chain -- women who would need professional attire, families that would need a second vehicle, new avenues for "retail therapy" to deal with the stresses of a two-earner household, etc.

Cui bono? Not the family and not most individuals. Big business, working hand in glove with big government, to alter the social and economic landscape for their own benefit. Not good.

11:58 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

One the ways the Left really deludes itself is by assuming that the coporatist menace you rightly describe is aligned to its chief bogeyman: "Patriarchy."

12:30 PM  
Blogger love the girls said...

I suspect the real change was caused by Japanese imports of quality durable goods that out competed American goods.

In response :

"US capitalists redirected their investments to produce and employ abroad, while replacing millions of workers in the US with computers."

Women in the workforce caused different problems as Mark in Spokane's 2 and 3 points toward.

2:40 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Let us not forget that these "Japanese imports of quality durable goods that out competed American goods" were made possible by our subsidizing their defense (and Korea's), while opening our markets to their products and allowing them to close their markets to ours.

So, yes, the blame must be spread out, but all of this is part of the larger trend of the State-managed transition from a "manufacturing economy" to a "service economy."

Liberals stupidly applaud the fact that white working-class women have now followed their black sisters in becoming better educated and better paid than their male counterparts. For the familial and societal devastation wrought by this unnatural situation, read Steve Sailer's latest movie review and weep -- Blue Valentine and the Decline of Men.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Francis Xavier said...

This analysis is badly tainted by the author's ideology; the 70s were rough for the US economy overall, with two oil shocks, a stupidly-waged war, etc. for workers and management alike.

It wasn't until the 80s and Reagan that labor began to suffer, but it was in no small part because labor unions had run amok; UAW workers who fasted screws on the assembly line had, for example, forced management to accept that they couldn't also be expected to, for example, apply a dab of paint.

Reagan and Thatcher were elected with a mandate to crush the unions, and crush them they did. The problem is that as circumstances changed (the end of the Cold War, stable governments in 3rd world countries, telecoms that allow business with 3rd world countries) the unions weren't -yet- able to come back to life because of how starkly Reagan's Republicans tilted the board against them.

Labor union leaders behaved like petty tyrants out to hold everyone ransom, and brought all this upon those they were supposed to serve, but don't expect leftists to tell you this.

3:26 AM  

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