[Marxism] Caring too much. That's the curse of the working classes | David Graeber | Comment is free | The Guardian

Marv Gandall marvgand2 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 11 07:57:23 MDT 2014

Graeber and his critic, Suren Moodliar, touch on political and psychological reasons for why the working class is not taking action against austerity, when the real answer is lurking in plain sight: workers are either too worried about their jobs to risk dismissal, or too preoccupied with finding employment at home or relocating elsewhere to engage in strikes or other forms of mass action. The ruling classes have taken care to calibrate the reduction of working class standards so as not to provoke a political reaction which could threaten the system and so far, despite widespread insecurity and discontent, they have been successful with rare exceptions.

On 2014-04-11, at 9:19 AM, Louis Proyect wrote:

> http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/26/caring-curse-working-class-austerity-solidarity-scourge
> Caring too much. That's the curse of the working classes
> Why has the basic logic of austerity been accepted by everyone? Because 
> solidarity has come to be viewed as a scourge
>        David Graeber	
>        The Guardian, Wednesday 26 March 2014 16.40 EDT	
> "What I can't understand is, why aren't people rioting in the streets?" 
> I hear this, now and then, from people of wealthy and powerful ssssssssssss
> backgrounds. There is a kind of incredulity. "After all," the subtext 
> seems to read, "we scream bloody murder when anyone so much as threatens 
> our tax shelters; if someone were to go after my access to food or 
> shelter, I'd sure as hell be burning banks and storming parliament. 
> What's wrong with these people?"
> It's a good question. One would think a government that has inflicted 
> such suffering on those with the least resources to resist, without even 
> turning the economy around, would have been at risk of political 
> suicide. Instead, the basic logic of austerity has been accepted by 
> almost everyone. Why? Why do politicians promising continued suffering 
> win any working-class acquiescence, let alone support, at all?
> I think the very incredulity with which I began provides a partial 
> answer. Working-class people may be, as we're ceaselessly reminded, less 
> meticulous about matters of law and propriety than their "betters", but 
> they're also much less self-obsessed. They care more about their 
> friends, families and communities. In aggregate, at least, they're just 
> fundamentally nicer.
> To some degree this seems to reflect a universal sociological law. 
> Feminists have long since pointed out that those on the bottom of any 
> unequal social arrangement tend to think about, and therefore care 
> about, those on top more than those on top think about, or care about, 
> them. Women everywhere tend to think and know more about men's lives 
> than men do about women, just as black people know more about white 
> people's, employees about employers', and the poor about the rich.
> (clip)
> A Response to David Graeber
> Has the Working Class Really Accepted Austerity?
> David Graeber answers the provocative title question affirmatively in a 
> recent Guardian op-ed, “Caring too much. That’s the curse of the working 
> classes” (3/26/2014). The result of this excessive caring is “that the 
> basic logic of austerity has been accepted by almost everyone.” So while 
> others may consider solidarity to be a virtue, Graeber believes that it 
> is “the rope from which [the working] class is currently suspended.” 
> This marks something of a shift from his position on caring articulated 
> in his magisterial historical survey, Debt: the First 5,000 Years, where 
> he observes that the “non-industrious poor spent [time] with friends and 
> family, enjoying and caring for those they love, [thereby] probably 
> improving the world more than we acknowledge.”
> Where “caring” prefigures the new society in Debt, it seems to anchor us 
> to an austere present in the Guardian op-ed. If Debt was about the 
> strange alchemy transmuting love into debt, this op-ed is about how 
> caring becomes austerity – a Gordian knot if ever there was one! 
> Fortunately, his austerity claims fail on several levels; the op-ed’s 
> premise, that the working class accepts austerity is a shaky, largely 
> false one. Further, even if we accept that the working class cares, it 
> does not mean that caring predisposes one to austerity.
> Does the working class accept austerity?
> It is easy to make this a fuzzy kind of question, after all, what is 
> “acceptance” and how do you measure it? Nonetheless, pretty 
> uncontroversial polling data show that working people are concerned 
> about budget deficits. But the same polling routinely shows that they 
> support policies that run contrary to the logic of austerity; today 
> about 73% of the US public support raising the minimum wage. 
> Interestingly, this has been pretty consistent over the decades. Back in 
> 1995, Bill Clinton had 79% support for hiking the minimum wage and for 
> defending “entitlements”. Even where the public accepts the need for 
> budget cuts, they are increasingly focused on reducing the spending that 
> supports the powerful (rejecting tax cuts for the rich, weapons 
> spending, etc.). Evidence for similar sentiments can be marshalled from 
> around the world. The French, for example, originally elected François 
> Hollande based on his anti-austerity platform. On its abandonment, the 
> same voters either stayed home or turned to the right. To be sure there 
> are a number of well-worn critiques of polling straight out of freshman 
> sociology textbooks. However the consistency of these kinds of 
> results—across different political contexts, countries and 
> generations—and election outcomes are hard to refute. The opinions 
> surfaced exist in spite of overwhelming media coverage and propaganda 
> designed to produce just the opposite results. This speaks to the 
> resilience of working class solidarity and more to a rejection of 
> austerity – even after decades of withering assaults.
> full: 
> http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/11/has-the-working-class-really-accepted-austerity/
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