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Work after Globalization

Building Occupational Citizenship

Guy Standing

In this ground-breaking book, Guy Standing offers a new perspective on work and citizenship, rejecting the labourist orientation of the 20th century.
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Chapter 10: Economic Rights: The Progressive Agenda

Guy Standing


(Derrida, 1996, p. 82) I refuse to renounce the great classical discourse of emancipation. INTRODUCTION No transformation can occur unless there is a progressive redistribution of some sort and an agenda of equality. What is it that should be equalized in the Good Society of the twenty-first century? Put differently, each transformation is resolved through a struggle over the strategic assets of the economic system. In feudalism, the struggle was mainly over land and water; in national industrial capitalism it was mainly over ownership of the means of production. The key assets in a tertiary economy are less tangible and include time, ecological space, information and financial capital. The progressive challenge is complicated by three fundamentalisms – the moralistic ‘religification’ of social policy based on invisible hands from above, the neo-liberal faith in invisible hands in markets and the paternalistic faith in guiding hands, which come together in the constructivism of the surveillance society. This chapter has nothing to say about the moralistic challenge, other than to state that it is a form of paternalism and that the separation of church and state should be restored. It is implicit that paternalism should be checked. As for markets, while essential, they must be embedded in society, used for allocative purposes and subject to social control. They must not be a rationalization for rejecting egalitarianism. Before considering how the strategic assets can be redistributed, recall that the objective is to enable people to pursue their own sense of occupation, combining work, labour, play...

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