Chapter 8: The Horror
8. The horror The dark forces rise like a flood. (Sir Michael Tippett, from the alto solo in the oratorio A Child of Our Time, 1939–41) INTRODUCTION Globalization has created a global market society. The disembeddedness is complete, the economy is out of sync with society. So, we must ask what strains could prompt an effective double movement. Polanyi saw what prompted it last time, in identifying the effects of robbing people of ‘the protective covering of cultural institutions’, leaving them as ‘victims of acute social dislocation’ (GT, p. 76). That could not go on. The period of recommodification has not been a great time for the advance of human freedom and equality. Ecologically, it is terrifying. Culturally, it is unedifying, characterized by a philistine tendency that is creating a modern version of a ‘bread-and-circuses’ existence for the masses. Educationally, it is marked by an intellectual ‘dumbing down’. In terms of work, it is marked by labour intensification, job-related stress, loss of control over labour time and dissatisfaction with jobholding. The statistical evidence of the malaise tumbles at us like a cascade. Increased wealth is not associated with more ‘happiness’, nor with more economic security. Drawing on the most detailed international data set ever constructed, the ILO’s Socio-Economic Security Programme found that conventional measures of national happiness are inversely related to inequality and positively related to economic security (ILO, 2004, ch. 11). In the 1950s over half British adults said they were very happy; in 2007 only one-third did,...
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