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Lecture 5: Work, Consumption, and Poverty in Global Consumption

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SOCI 1002
Tamy Superle

Lecture 5: Work, Consumption, and Poverty in Global Capitalism Work  Definition: activity involving mental/physical effort done in order to achieve a result; a task or tasks to be undertaken  Work occupies a central role in our lives The Nature of Work  Work remains central to our existence o It’s necessary for survival of most people  Work is a social product o The way in which work is presently organized is not inevitable. It can be questioned and transformed.  People seek meaning in their work o Quality, not quantity o Central to our identity Economy  The social institution in which people carry out the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services Industrialization  Factory system of production facilitated capitalist production, shaping the way people worked and lived o Movement of work from homes and workshops to factories o Time discipline o More specialized division of labour o Departure of men from homes and families Capitalism  World’s dominant economic system; two distinctive features: o Private ownership of property o Competition in pursuit of profit  Pay the least amount in wages to make the most amount of money in profit Democratic Socialism  Several prosperous and highly industrialized countries in northwestern Europe, such as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, are democratic social societies; two distinctive features: o Public ownership of certain basic industries o Substantial government intervention in the market Consumerism  Economic policies placing emphasis on consumption  Encouraging the buying consumer goods Can Money Buy Happiness?  One research project argues that because wealth allows people to experience the best that life has to offer, it ultimately undermines their ability to savour life’s little pleasures  As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75, 000; after that, people show no gain of happiness Global Financial Crisis  Considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression  It resulted in the collapse of large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments, and downturns in stock markets around the world and a global economic recession in 2008  Consequences: evictions and foreclosures, joblessness, cuts in social spending Post-Industrial Economy  A productive system based on service work and extensive use of information technology  Information revolution  Computer technology central to the shift from industrial to post-industrial The Service Sector  Rise linked to development of information based society and the rise of a strong consumer culture  Wide range of jobs  Polarization of work “Good” Jobs  Pay well  Not closely supervised and encourage creativity  Pleasant working environment  Require higher education  Secure employment  Good benefits and promotion opportunities “Bad” Jobs  Don’t pay much  Routine tasks under close supervision  Unpleasant working conditions, sometimes dangerous  Require little formal education  Insecure employment  Few benefits and advancement opportunities Primary Labour Market  Comprises mainly highly skilled or well-educated white males, who are employed in large corporations that enjoy high levels of capital investment  Employment is secure  Earnings are high  Fringe benefits are generous Secondary Labour Market  Contains disproportionately large number of women and members of ethnic minorities, particularly recent immigrants  Employees in secondary labour market tend to be unskilled and lack higher education  Employment is insecure, earnings are low, and fringe benefits are meager Part-time Work  In 2007, 19.4% of all people in Canadian labour force were part-timers, working fewer than 30 hours a week o Among men, figure was 12.1%; among women was 27.3%  Growth of part-time jobs is not problematic for voluntary part-time workers or people who have good part-time jobs  Increasingly, large number of people depend on low-paid, low-status, insecure part- time work for necessities of full-time living Flexible Work  Numerical Flexibility o Shrinking of core workforce (permanent, full-time) and by non-standard (contingent) employment (part-time/ seasonal, contracted, self-employed) o Employment relationship is tenuous  Flexible Specialization (Functional) o Involves multi-skilling, job rotation, organization of workers into teams for purposes of changing production Unemployment  The unemployment rate in 2010 as 8%, second highest since the end of the 1990s
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