The modern economy is stuck in a major rut. Productivity gains have not matched wage inflation, and productivity itself is relatively stagnant, particularly in the UK. Job provision is being increasingly concentrated in low-pay sectors, with temporary work and part-time contracts creating a modern precariat of working class individuals, students and other members of a general lumpenproletariat. Mechanisation and technology gains are captured by capitalist interests through IP rights and state-funding of corporate research, meaning that increasingly people are not just being made precarious, but are simply losing their jobs as well as any state-support. Such an existence is both undesirable and extremely distressing. Rather than markets freeing entrepreneurial spirits and creating a class of Konkinite contractors, free from the vagaries of state-capitalism, they have been wrought by the demands of that system and have created what I’ve described.
Thus obviously there need to be alternatives which can combat this system as well as develop an alternative methodology and praxis which supersedes it. There are innumerable such ideas floating on the internet and in policy and journal papers. One, however, seems to have really stuck its head above the parapet: a jobs guarantee which creates the conditions for full employment. This idea has been around for years, and had been inculcated in elements of the Bretton Woods system by giving national governments significant room for manoeuvre when it came to economic decision-making. Nowadays, in a financialised world where speculation provides more economic growth than manufacturing in most Western countries, this idea has gained significant traction. What better to unlock the productive potentials of the unemployed and underemployed. What better to provide a workforce for “necessary” infrastructure projects and home-building programs.
Unfortunately the proponents of such ideas generally tend to act as useful idiots for the generalities of capitalism and its systemic creation through the state. Capitalism has relied on these myriad infrastructure projects to increase their levels of capital valorisation and expand the means through which it is realised. Artificial economies of scale are effectively subsidised by state projects, whether that be the railway land grants of the 19th century, the mass enclosures of common land in Britain, or the interstate programs of the 50s and 60s. All have served the purpose of capital centralisation, land speculation and the glorification of profit. Further, with the myriad crises of capitalism, there is nothing more useful than a state that can soak up both excess labour and excess product. From this, we see the military-industrial complex (which provides outlets for information technology and research funding) and the prison-industrial complex (which provides one method for the distribution of surplus labour).
More systemically such job guarantees ingrain the main method of capital accumulation, that of the wage labour relation and the alienation of the labourer from the means of production. Simply giving such means over to the state does not limit this fundamental social relation. Rather, it gives it legitimacy and furthers the means of centralisation of capital as labour can be used for multiple productive outlets rather than those of individual capitals. You simply end up with a stratified Marxian nightmare. Meanwhile, the things that actually provide economic prosperity (good capital access, the freeing of entrepreneurial capacities, autonomy in the workplace, the limitation of monopolisation through free market competition) are crushed under the corporate-state nexus. Job guarantees are not an alternative to the current means of capitalism. If anything, they may provide a stop-gap to the internal dynamics of capitalism, which necessitate crises. State action simply gives stabilisation. The real problems are the wage labour relation and the monopolisation of the means of production, not that there aren’t enough piecemeal jobs to pass around.
Real, radical change will only come from the ground-up, in civil society and communities. It will not come from any action created by the state or any of its parasitic organisations and interests. It will be developed out the destruction of the major capitalist monopolies, those of land, money, intellectual property, tariffs and transport subsidies. No state will ever achieve such as it has historically acted as the benefactor of these monopolies. Only concerted action through agorist and syndicalist lenses will provide radical alternatives to the current system. Struggles through the prism of the state, as seen in the fights for trade unionism and a welfare state, have now failed. The antagonistic relation of state and civil society is not reparable, and nor has it ever been. Alternatives need to be created, as they have been and continue to be all the over the world. Whether those be the time banks and alternative currencies that exist in Greece, the alternative production systems in hackerspaces and small production outlets (which show the uselessness of mass production) or the cooperative economic systems that exist in Spain or South America, it does not matter. Only when such alternatives can be constructed continually and successfully will we see the plethora of systemic action which can combat capitalism. This will never come from “full employment” ideologies and the useful idiots whom infect radical discourse.