Monday, July 13, 2009

The Coming Jobless Society


Children protest the closure of a jail in Lansing, Michigan.

It is only right that I am drawn to learning about the ascension
and decline of civilizations, as a I saw my community
Oakland, California, and my family, in many ways,
by the crack epidemic and the war on
drugs in the 1980's.

What as happened to post industrial to Detroit,
Oakland, Philly,
Newark, Los Angeles and Baltimore, is
the closest thing to the
decline of civilization I have seen,
in my short lifetime.

Last week I spent much of my time writing about pop culture,
Drake, Black women, which is what I do. I write critically
race, class and power. Imus, The Duke rape case,
Nelly, Oscar
Grant, Rihanna, Slavery, Capitalism and what
the life of being a writer looks and feels like. Then, after
one book it felt like what I was writing about was

As you can guess this isn't a good moment for a
writer, in
fact, it felt quite awful.

Artist make art, regardless of whether they are being paid for it. ~Rafi Kam.

I am an impressionable reader. So last month, when I noticed
that Ta-Nehisi
was reading about The Civil War, I wanted to
start reading about
the civil war. It seemed as if, given the
fact that Obama is president,
and that we are in the midst
of a huge change, that it would be helpful
to read and learn
more about our countries origins.

I came across a book, The Founding Brothers,
was fascinating because it talked about the conversations

that the founding fathers, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin,
had about slavery, emancipation the American
(I will talk more about this book in a later post, as it deserves it.

I needed to mention The Founding Brothers because,
a couple weeks later, I was in Birkhold's car, I saw, a book
on the seat and began to read it.
You know the seven stages
of grief?

I think I experienced a remixed version of it after reading this book.
I was
excited, then angry, then sad, then cynical, then I accepted it.

A few more days passed and I was ready to make moves. It also
helped that I read Gramsci's wiki entry. Fortunately, Gramsci
makes it clear that culture is important, just as important as politics,
because it is through culture that we decide and reaffirm what is
normal. Gramsci also believes that we need organic intellectuals.
After I read that, I did the robot.

The book that, forced me to question it all is American Revolution:
Notes from a Negro Workers Note Book. It's central argument
that automation will make our society a jobless society, and
as a
result we will have to organize our society into one which
is based
our needs instead of our wants.
A year ago, I would have thought
this book was far fetched and or outdated, just based on the title.

I would have thought this book was far fetched if
I haven't been
waitress for the last month, the only waitress in a white restaurant
largely managed by, ran by and servicing working class white folks.
Most of my exposure to white folks has been middle class, affluent, and
the elite. So working with the working class has forced me to rethink
work, race, assimilation and American social progress.

I would have thought this book was far fetched if
I didn't have
Black men, to good family men in my family, who have felonies.

This means that every time they apply for a job that they are
qualified for,
more than likely they will not get it because the legal
system requires for them to be branded
as felons, felon's for life,
even IF they have paid their debt to society, even if they have reformed,
even if they infraction occurred almost twenty years ago.

I would have thought this book was far fetched
, if I hadn't been laid
from an awesome job last year. The job was with an organization
served high achieving low income kids. I still remember the irony
washing over me when I realized that as a young person I was a
high achievin
g low income kid. Given that, I asked myself, why couldn't
they figure out a way for me to remain
and make a contribution?

I would have thought this book was far fetched if I hadn't been denied
my unemployment extension last year. I had a hearing and everything.

The judge, bless his heart, told me that if it were up to him, that he
grant it to me, based on my argument. But according to
California legislation,
an employee has to earn 40 times her weekly
base salary in order to qualify
for an extension, which meant that I
would had to have earned 80K to get an extension. Right? right.
I would have thought this book was far fetched if my father, a resident of
California moved to Las Vegas last month, after coming to California
in 1970 after the Air Force, because it became clear to him that that state
is only for the affluent and the people, mainly hardworking immigrants,
who serve them.
Earlier this year, it became clear to him that as a semi retired
man, there was no way for him to survive in that
2009 California economy.

I would have thought this was far fetched if I didn't personally know
6 under or un employed Black people, who have recently been laid
off. All have advanced degrees or five to ten years experience in their fields.

The above evidence is anecdotal, at best. However it underscores
the large system in which we live, which is why I wrote about them.

Black unemployment is at 14.7%.
is gutting public assistance.
AIG is begging for more bonus money, again.
2.6 Million jobs were lost in 2008.
GM is now by and large a government ran company.

The American Revolution is important because it provides
a theoretical framework for understanding what the above
statistics mean.

The book was written in 1964, so we have the pleasure,
or perhaps, the horror
of seeing the phenomena he has
written about come alive today in 2009. His writing is so
straight forward, that I have decided to include
excerpts below, preceded by a contextualizing sentence.

James Boggs on our automated society:
America today is headed towards an automated society, and it cannot
be stopped by feather bedding, by refusing to work overtime, by sabotage,
or by shortening the work week by a few hours. America today is rapidly
reaching a point where, in order to defend the warfare state and the
capitalist system, there will be automation on top of automation. The
dilemma before the workers and the American people is: How can
we have
automation and still earn our livings? It is not simply a
question of retraining or changing from one form of work to another.
For automation definitely eliminates the need for vast numbers of
workers, including semi skilled unskilled, and middle class clerical
On organizations and change:
All organizations that spring up in a capitalist society and do not take absolute
power, but rather fight only on one tangential or essential aspect of the society
are eventually incorporated into the society.
On the unions and pensions:
They cannot get it in their heads the these old workers, who use
to be so militant are now a vanishing herd who know that they
are a vanishing herd, who know that because of automation,
the days of workers like themselves in manufacturing are numbered,
and who have therefore decided that all they can do now
is to fight to protect their pensions and seniority and hope the company
will need them to work until they are old enough to retire or die, which
ever comes first.
On automation in the past vs. new automation:
Automation replaces men. This of course is nothing new. What is
new is that now, unlike most earlier periods, these displaced men

have no where to go. The farmers displaced by mechanization
the farms of the20's could go to the cities, and man the assembly
lines....But automation displaces people even when they have
made expendable by the system.
On coming discord between the tax payers and the dependents:
Growing in numbers all the time, these displaced persons have to
be maintained, becoming tremendous drain on the whole
population, and creating growing antagonism between
those who
have jobs and those who do not. This antagonism in
the population
between those who have to be supported and
those have to
support them is one of the inevitable antagonisms
of capitalism.
On the end of the demand for labor:
It is easy to accept that a man should move from one form of
labor to another, but it is hard to accept that there will no
be a mass demand for any labor

...They still assume that the majority of the population of such
goods will still remain the heart of society. They have not been able
to face the fact that even if the workers took over the plants they
would be faced with the problem of what do with themselves now that
work is becoming socially unnecessarily.

Lastly, on American citizens and politics:
...In the United States...everyman is a policeman over himself,
a prisoner of his own fears. He is afraid to think because he is
afraid of what his neighbors might think if they found out what
he was thinking, or what his boss might think, or what the police
might think, or the FBI or the CIA. All because he thinks
he has a lot ot lose. He thinks he has to choose between material
goods and political freedom. And when the two are counterposed,
Americans will choose material goods. Believing that they have
much to lose, Americans find excuses where there are no
excuses, evade issues before issues arise, shun situations and
conversations which could lead to conflict, leave politics and
political decisions to politicians. They will not regain membership
in the human race until they recognize that the greatest need
is to no longer to make material goods but to make politics
I hope, after reading these excerpts you can see why my
dungeon shook a little bit.
In thinking about the above
quotes, and experience of
reading this book I am thinking,
honestly about sustainable
local, artistic, communities that
are organized to serve our needs vs.
our wants.

A community garden here and there ain't gonna cut it.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

What do you think of the idea of a jobless society?

What does a society look like that places our needs
above our wants?

What is the greatest obstacle to achieving such
a society?

When you eat out do you tip 18%?(personal question, lols)


K1NG said...


The contents of this post has been on my mind for a long time now.. I'm glad you posted a book that explains some of the ideas i've been trying to sort out in my head..

Unfortunately in America we have placed desires for our wants much higher than our needs in our minds.. A society that places it's needs over it's wants is a society that goes unnoticed and peaceful when isolated..

As long as capitalism is around though, we will not become a society like that.. For, the people heading corporations are not evil, they are solely following a legal stipulation that they MUST do whatever it takes to make the most profits for it's shareholders.. And as we know, business is all about making someone feel like they need something that they in fact, do not need. Capitalism is a cycle that produces innovation, but dries up humanity at the same time..

The greatest obstacle of gaining a society like the one you speak of is this (imo):

There is nobody who can be overthrown or held accountable for where we are.. We are merely pawns in a system that was set up decades ago to keep the rich wealthy and to put money over humanity.. Well, we are now paying for it, and there really ain't much we can do about it..

I'm personally going to be probably moving to another country once I get my degree here. I love America, but the path that it seems to be following is not a path i want my kids making their way through.. I want my kids to grow up around a society that places needs and wants on a more balanced scale..

Model Minority said...

What up K.
Glad you stop by and commented. I am glad you like this post. I felt vulnerable as I wrote it, but the vulnerable ones BE the good ones.

Peep Game, Blood, your in the Bay, so you know this.

1. Automation is here. Jobless society is here.
It is what it is.
How many of your patna's don't have jobs?
How many of em have one or two strikes for some stupid shit?

2. I mentioned the Founding Fathers book for a reason, but now I realize that I should have taken my time to explain it better. Yo, Young America, went at the Britsh, the MOST powerful, largest, strongest army the world had ever seen at the point. Young America had NO idea whether it would survive. In fact those cats KNEW that they needed slavery just to get by for a hot minute, they knew it was wrong, but they were trying to cobble together a new nation.

Given the State of California, Given AIG,given the fact that cats are getting OUT THE PEN because its too expensive to keep them there, given the fact that young people are graduduating w/o ANY PROSPECT OF FINDING A JOB....I would say that the conditions are being ripended for a huge change.

The conditions DO have to be ripe tho. Thats real spit.

There is nobody who can be overthrown or held accountable for where we are
You peep the part of Bogg's essay where he talks about what Americans would rather do than MAKE POLITICS.
Make excuses, say they can't do it, etc.... I'm pushing back on you here.

This is our country. As citizen's in a democacy WE are responsible for the direction that it takes.

I feel the way about Oakland that I feel about America, it ain't perfect, but it raised me, I Love It, feel me.

I could see wanting to leave, but this place holds tremendous promise. Rather than run, I would at least like you to consider think about struggling for another world first

Any place that you wanted to go, became the way that it is because people STRUGGLED for it.

We need you. Think about it.

I look forward to your response.

JP said...

Maybe the problem isn't the automation, but the fact that the worker hasn't been allowed share in the benefits of it(more productivity). In other words it's time for the 30 hr work week. Say 100 people start on a non-automated production line, I can produce x widgets per day. Now that line is upgraded, today I can produce 2x widgets per day so they only need 1/2 the amount of folks so the employee are reduced by 1/2. This is what we see today. Perhaps what should be happening is I produce 1.5x widgets per day an go home. The employer can reap some of the benefits and the employer can more employed.

M.Dot. said...

Thank you for commenting.

While I would like to rock with you, the data just isn't in your favor.

The state of the Detroit/US auto industry makes this clear.

A shorter work week ain't gonna do it.
Peep Bogg's book, its like 3 bucks on Amazon and 90 pages long.

He talks how 30 work weeks, feather beading, and many other tools ain't gonna cut it BECAUSE the unions handed over the power to the corporations when they started allowing folks to work with out contracts AND

The jobs are gone, and they ain't coming back.

Capitalism's who shit is, I am going to make the most, by paying the least.

How would you reconcile this with the sharing of wealth, initiated by the owners, with the workers?

K1NG said...

:D Revolution?

The only thing that scares me is the ease in which another countries would be able to capitalize on our civil unrest.. Not only that, but the American system is so intricate and interdependent that i don't see how we could make a transition to a new governing body without an immense amount of information/progress lost in our standing with the world.. And the governing body which would make the most sense that i have seen when it comes to putting needs over wants is the one system that Conservatives have given a tainted name.. And that's Socialism..

But yes, i think maybe you're right.. Maybe it is time to overthrow parts of this system.. All of us that capitalism has chewed up and spit out might need to start organizing politically.. We do have strength in numbers if you think about it.. Only problem is, we are also the least organized.. I think we need to stop playing their game though, and start coming up with a new way to make changes in this two-party system that makes individualism seem like cancer..

Damn you m.Dot!!! Giving me too much to process right now..

You have inspired me though..

M.Dot. said...


I know revolution sound type cliched.

But shit. 21 year olds with 30,40,50K school debt and no job ain't what the streets want either.

Me, smart as I am, barely getting by, FULL of education, nah homie.

The list goes on and on. You got family, mommas, dad's grand parents patnas. Some are OK, many are struggling with no end in site.

The only thing that scares me is the ease in which another countries would be able to capitalize on our civil unrest
First of all you assume that we ARE NOT already interconnect we are.
Peep game. If you are concerned about weaknesses being exploited in the future, those SAME weaknesses may or may not being exploited right now.
Other countries have already capitalized on.
In the Ya momma's a socialist series I talked about how Swiss cats call NYC the new Berlin. REAL SPIT.

Not only that, but the American system is so intricate and interdependent that i don't see how we could make a transition to a new governing body without an immense amount of information/progress lost in our standing with the world
You sound like you wana rock with me, but you are concerned about what may be lost.
I hear you. But peep game. You are in Cali, I ain't, what I do KNOW is that it isn't a good look there.

What, in your opinion, do you think it would take for folks to make a connection between their day to day lives and the need for a society based on needs vs. wants?

What do you think are the barriers to getting folks to see that its going down?

Memetic said...

Mizz Jones,

Always nice checking you out. Peep my entry on the creative class exchange re: culture under pressure from the global economy, and think about it with respect to your post. I think we're dealing with the same phenomenon, but it really different ways and I'd be interested in how the two approaches line up with eachother.


K1NG said...

I think the only way for people to make that connection is for them to understand how these corporations run our lives, and how we are being manipulated through commercials and other marketing strategies to make us feel like we need something we don't in order to take our money. No one wants to get pimped, and if they realize that is all our capitalist society is doing to us, they might decide to STOP being pimped and want an alternative that is not currently in place in this country.

The barriers is the fact that nobody want to THINK about these things. Also, money is necessary to spread information. The internet only gets you so far, and the people who HAVE the money aren't going to want to give their money up to overthrow a system that made it possible for them to have that money in the first place..

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