King, Where Are Your People Now

by Chris Sturr | August 28, 2013

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(1) March on Washington anniversary:  A few items on today’s 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom:

  • UB40:  The audio of the Youtube video at the top of today’s post is UB40′s song, “King,” from their great album “Signing Off.”  Despite its name, it was the band’s debut album (1980). The cover is the British unemployment benefits form, from which the band took its name. “King” is a  great tune, which I remember having a big impact on me when I finally understood the lyrics at around age 14. The lyrics (why not click “play” and listen while you read this post?):

    King, where are your people now ?
    Chained and pacified.
    Tried in vain to show them how.
    And for that you died.You had a dream of a promised land.
    People of all nations walking hand in hand
    But they`re not ready to accept
    That dream situation, yet.
  • Dr. Dollar on Black-White income inequality:  I just posted a relevant piece from our current issue, Black-White Income Differences:What’s Happened?
  • Fadhel Kaboub, Honoring Dr. King’s Call for a Job Guarantee ProgramSometime D&S author, via New Economic Perspectives from UMKC.
  • Dave Zirin: Seeing “The New Jim Crow” Placards Seized by Police, and More from the March on WashingtonVia his Nation blog. Money quote: “Based upon the speeches during the main portion of today’s events there can be little doubt that the Dr. King who was murdered in Memphis in 1968 would not have been allowed to speak at this fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of his life. There was no discussion of the ‘evil triplets’ [money, materialism, militarism]. Instead, we had far too many speakers pay homage to the narrowest possible liberal agenda in broad abstractions with none of the searing material truths that make Dr. King’s speeches so bracing even today.”

(2) Bullshit Jobs:  Speaking of jobs, David Graeber had an interesting piece at Strike! magazine called On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.  Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism had a critique of Graeber, in a post called The Rise of Bullshit Jobs.  And there was a piece at the Economist also critiquing Graeber, On “bullshit jobs”.  Graeber’s basic idea is that in place of Keynes’ prediction that labor-saving devices would reduce the working day/week (at least for people in the United States and Europe), we have instead seen the rise of lots of meaningless jobs, some well paid (consultants), some low-level and low pay (telemarketing). Yves Smith had a subtle critique–a lot more thoughtful, of course, than the one in The Economist, but lots of members of the NC commentariat took her to task, and there was a lively discussion on the whole. Some of the debate hinged on whether the jobs in question were useless entirely or “just” socially useless–telemarketers are doing something that is useful to their employers, after all.  I posted a comment there (something I don’t do too often) linking Graeber’s idea to the one Michael Perelman made in his article for D&S, The Rise of Guard Labor. Perelman’s focus is on jobs whose only purpose is to allow capitalists to “protect their commodities, including the goods and premises they own, but especially the labor-power in their employ.” Anyhow, the debate at NC is worth taking a look at.

That’s it for now–we are in the midst of layout for our annual Sept/Oct labor issue.

–Chris Sturr

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