Stability, the “labor shortage”, and why people put up with shitty jobs

I’m willing to bet there are a number of areas in which I would disagree with this guy, but his point about stability is worth taking in.

This doesn’t just apply to employment under capitalism. It’s key to how a lot of systems keep going, despite all their obvious problems. Most systems of governance work decently for most people. If people have their basic needs met (including stuff like having free time) in a stable manner, they’ll put up with a lot of bullshit. Part of the reason I was OK working as a cashier after leaving my job writing curriculum was because it provided me with a reliability that my academic, grant-paid work could not. My salary as a curriculum writer was higher, and I had excellent benefits, but none of that mattered much when work that would have been funded in the past wasn’t, and I found myself facing 4 hours of work per week with no benefits. I was more invested in the work than in ringing up camping equipment, but what I really needed, before everything else, was to know that I could pay the bills. Short of that, I needed to have some reasonable expectation that a period of being unable to make ends meet would lead to being able to do so more reliably in the future.

I think this is also why there’s so much effort in the United States to hide the fact that people in the USSR generally ate as well or maybe even better than Americans, people like Chris Matthews might have a real fear of being executed by Bernie for being too rich, but that’s a worry for the ruling class. For everyone else, the threat was either nuclear war (which I’m told would make it difficult to enjoy a stable day-to-day life) or starvation. Throughout my entire life, I’ve heard people in the US talk about the horrible conditions in all these “socialist” countries around the world, that was DEFINITELY not in any way connected to the economic sanctions placed on them by the most powerful country in the world.

The threat of instability and uncertainty have always been used to prevent economic and political change. It will be interesting to see what happens to that dynamic now that our destabilization of the climate is making certainty and stability increasingly difficult to maintain.


  1. Katydid says

    I was a student of Russian in the early 1980s, and my conversation-hour professor had just come from the Soviet Union. For all its many flaws, the Soviet Union did many things right. Women in the USSR had easy access to superb daycare at a ridiculously low price, public schools were excellent and offered after-school tutoring and some places would even feed the kids dinner if their parents worked a late shift, public transportation was dirt-cheap and reliable, books were practically free (poetry was revered), and things like theater and ballet were so cheap that the average person could afford to go.

    How did they do this? State subsidies. You know, “soshulizm!!11!!”

  2. Katydid says

    I finally found time to watch the video, and it was well worth it.

    A factor that wasn’t really discussed was the the bloated, hulking giant of the Baby Boomers is finally mostly retired, leaving the smallest generation in recent American history (Gen X) who spent their lives fighting for a place at the table and getting thrown off the train with every time the economy tanked as the knowledge keepers. The Millennials (the children of the Boomers, nearly as hulking) are now throwing fits because Gen Z (the children of the X’ers) doesn’t want to risk their lives and die to enrich the Millennials who threw them to the curb once the economy went south.

  3. says

    Your description of events seems to place a lot more power in the hands of millennials than our control of wealth would imply. Whatever problems there are with millennials – and we’ve got plenty – it’s worth remembering that Nancy Pelosi isn’t even a Boomer. She’s the Silent Generation. She was born in 1940, and she’s not alone in Congress, or among multimillionaires, you know?

    Millennials are definitely part of the problem, but we’re also mostly getting kicked to the curb.

    It seems to me that a lot of the generational “rivalries” are a distraction from the class dynamics. The Boomers are blamed as a generation for dropping the ball on climate change, but it’s more complicated than that, especially with “Greatest”/Silent Generation folks holding onto power for so long.

    That’s why it’s encouraging to see the popularity of leftist ideas among Gen Z. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s movement in a good direction.

    Honestly I think the biggest barrier to change has been the way Liberalism has been pushed as an ideology, and the way the mythologization of “past” movements has cut out major parts of those movements, until people think – as I used to – that stuff like marches and vigils were what actually got the job done, all by themselves.

    We had our imaginations and understanding of the world limited to make change more difficult, and at the same time, the ruling class (through government and corporate media) has gotten a lot better at neutralizing peaceful “in-bounds” activism. That trend is changing, and Gen Z is clearly a big part of that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *