Realsociology

A hyperreflexive blog focussing on critical sociology, infographics, Buddhism and extreme early retirement

Archive for the 'Marxism' Category

Increasing income inequality in the UK

Posted by Realsociology on 30th August 2014

I thought this infographic showing income inequality was worth sharing (From the Equality Trust) –

income-inequality-uk-2

Unfortunately (if you think income inequality is bad!) things have got even worse since 2012!

Britain’s top executives are now paid around 130 times their average employee, according to analysis released today by the High Pay Centre think-tank. 

Income inequality has got a LOT WORSE in recent decades. In 1998, the average FTSE 100 CEO was paid 47 times their average employee, which means that while average incomes have stagnated in relation to the cost of living, the incomes of the very richest have almost trebled in 15 years.

The video below illustrates this in stark terms by comparing the typical wage of a nurse with that of a typical CEO, the headline figures being as follows:

  • A CEO earns as much in 3 days as a nurse does in a year.

  • A CEO earns more in a year than a nurse will earn in her entire life.

  • If we redistributed the income of the top 1%, then on average each household in the UK would be better off by £3K a year.

 Related questions you might like to think about include….

1. Why does such income inequality exist?

2. Is this fair? (are CEOs worth 130 times more than their average employee?)

3. Is income inequality good or bad for society?

4. If you’ve answered ‘no’, and ‘bad’ to questions 2 and 3, can anything be done about increasing income inequality?

Posted in Changing Britain, Infographics, Marxism, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

Corporate Pay Rises by 49% – Another reason to support #LSX

Posted by Realsociology on 28th October 2011

Research from Income Data Services showed that directors of companies on Britain’s FTSE 100 index enjoyed a 49 percent rise in total salaries last year compared to 3 percent rise for the FTSE 100 in the last business year.The total annual pay for the directors now averages 2.7 million pounds

This compares to a recent drop in annual average salaries – according the Mail, a drop of £2500 in the average in a recent 6 month period

For some reason, radio 4 gave air time to one such CEO justifying the inreases due to the fact that these companies are global in scope – and if we didn’t offer such huge salaries in the UK, the ‘talent’ at the top would go.

It’s unusual for radio 4 to give airtime to such nonsense! Nonsense according to Toybe and Walker’s book – unjust rewards – Chapter 3 of which investigates why Britain’s chief executives get paid so much money – and finds those at the top are not especially talented people – and there is no correlation between company performance and executive pay – for every Alan Sugar there are dozens of bureaucratic pen pushers who just go with the flow. Worryingly old boy’s networks restrict access to the boards of the FTSE 100 companies – how else could it be that, in the age of globalization, 85% of CEOs of the FTSE 100 companies are British?

Also, If there was true competition for these jobs the field would be much more international, and if there was genuine competition for these jobs, wages and bonuses would be driven down!

Instead CEOs get paid as much as they do because they demand it – and they base their demands on what other CEOs are demanding – and their demands for ever increasing wages get pushed through at board meetings because of recommendations by consultants who make their recommendations for wage and bonus increases by looking at other CEOs salaries.

Of course the government is on the side of the Corporations and it won’t do anything to combat inflated and unjust corporate pay levels- which yet another reason to protest, strike etc - It’s up to us to, after all, to control these Corporate leaches….

Related posts -

 Disparities between top pay packets need better explanation

Socialist review – unjust rewards

My review of ‘unjust rewards’

Posted in Marxism, Sociological Theory | 1 Comment »

Common Criminals?

Posted by Realsociology on 19th September 2011

Can you imagine working for a company that has just 635 employees, but has the following employee statistics? 29 have been accused of spouse abuse, 7 have been arrested for fraud, 9 have been accused of writing bad cheques, 17 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses, 3 have done time for assault, 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit, 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges, 8 have been arrested for shoplifting, 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits, 84 have been arrested for drink driving in the last year – and – collectively, this year alone, they have cost the British tax payer £92,993,748 in expenses! Which organisation is this?

It’s the 635 members of the House of Commons. The same group that cranks out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line. And just to top all that they probably have the best ‘corporate’ pension scheme in the country! If you agree that this is an appalling state of affairs, please pass it on to everyone you know.

Thanks to Brian for forwarding this on and to someone called Dan Pit who he got it from via facebook.!

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Marxism | No Comments »

Happiness is just around the corner and other ‘anti-Capitalist’ cartoons

Posted by Realsociology on 17th September 2011

- Double header of Marxism* coming up in Sociology next week – The Marxist perspective on crime in A2 and intro to Marxism in AS – and here’s some nice cartoons that illustrate the broad marxist critique of Capitalism -

Firstly, an animated cartoon – the rat race -

And the non-animated version

And secondly – from our concerned friends organising this year’s buy nothing day – on November 26th this year!

And putting things in global perspective -

 

And this should bring a certain Marxist concept to mind – for ‘business man’ read the ‘Bourgeois’ or the ‘Capitalist Class’

*Or at least what the AQA call Marxism – which basically involves teaching it in a very generalised way – in fact anything that is critical of Capitalism and Elites can count as ‘Marxism’ in this context – which means anything from Marxism all the way through to Anarchism comes under the heading. Loose I know – but then again it is just the start…

Related Posts

My Book – Why Western Notions of Happiness are Unsatisfactory and How Buddhism Can Lead to a Deeper Sense of Happiness

Mainly for my own reference – some postcards

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Marxism, Things I like | No Comments »

My top four examples of elites getting away with crime

Posted by Realsociology on 7th September 2011

So in week 2 this term – we look at what the crusty old men at the AQA label the ‘Marxist’ perspective on crime – part of what they say the ‘Marxist’ perspective is involves the Criminal Justice System being unfair – here are four examples that support this view – four examples of elites getting away with crime!

I wish I could say there was some kind of points ranking system that leads to the 1-4, but there isn’t - the ranking’s mainly based on a combination of  harm done, raw cheek, and the extent to which these ‘criminals that aren’t actually criminals’ annoy me.

Yes that's his son - he should've got 10 years just for producing that ponce...

In at number four – achieving its position for the sheer cheek of it – Derek Conway (ex) MP - I know there are more recent examples of the expenses scandals, but this one from a few years ago really stands out – in 2007, an inquiry found that Conservative MP Derek Conway had “misused” parliamentary funds by paying an annual £11,773 salary, plus bonuses totalling more than £10,000, to his younger son Freddie while he was a full-time student in Newcastle upon Tyne. The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found that the arrangement with Freddie was “at the least, an improper use of parliamentary allowances: at worst, it was a serious diversion of public funds.”  The Commons committee said it was “astonished” by the lack of evidence of any work that Mr Conway’s second son had done in return for the £45,000 in salary. Mr Conway was suspended from the Commons for ten days and required to repay £13,000 of the money.

Mark Thatcher - 'It was just a little coup attempt'

In at number three – It’s ‘Sir’ Mark Thatcher - In 2005 he plead guilty over his involvement in an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea. The son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was fined the equivalent of US$500,000 (£265,000) and given a four-year suspended jail term. Sir Mark denied any knowledge of the plot, and agreed a plea bargain and will now co-operate with investigators. He admitted breaking anti-mercenary legislation in South Africa by agreeing to finance a helicopter. The businessman said he did not initially know the helicopter’s alleged purpose – that it was to be used in the alleged coup attempt, instead believing it was to be used as an air ambulance. But in his plea bargain statement, Sir Mark says he came to realise the helicopter was to be used for mercenary activities before the deal was finalised.[3]

And at NUMBER two – the case of Union Carbide in Bhopal-

The events surrounding the tragedy at Bhopal, India, provide a good case study of how capitalist enterprises can be supported by the state on a global scale. Union Carbide, an American owned multi-national company, set up a pesticide plant in Bhopal. In 1984, the plant accidentally leaked deadly gas fumes into the surrounding atmosphere. The leakage resulted in over 2,000 deaths and numerous poisonous related illnesses including blindness. Investigations since have revealed that the company set up this particular plant because pollution controls in India were less rigid than in the USA. In Snider’s terms (1993), the Indian State supported such capitalist development in the interests of allowing profits to be made. Marxists would point out that there have been no criminal charges despite the high death and injury toll. They would see the company owners as the true criminals in this scenario. Killed more than 3000 people and caused permanent injury to a further 20 000. The escape of gas was caused by inadequate safety procedures at the plant. No criminal charges have as yet been brought against the plant although it has agreed to pay 470 million dollars in compensation.

Bliare - he operated according to his own rules

At Number one – For sending hundreds of British soldiers to their deaths and being responsible for thousands of innocent Iraqis dying – and well deserving of the top position-  is the Megalomaniac psychopath Tony Bliar - the most notorious war criminal in the history of Britain – for decieving the public into backing (well some of them at least) an illegal war in Iraq.

 

Of course this is not an exhaustive list – we could add Andy Coulson, the Corporation Shell, and Berlusconi – all deserve top ten positions - but I only had time to do four….  


Posted in Crime and Deviance, Global Development, Marxism, War and conflict | No Comments »

Book Plug – Why Marx was Right, Terry Eagleton

Posted by Realsociology on 23rd August 2011

Why Marx was Right refutes ten criticisms levelled at Marx and Marxism over the years by drawing on material from Marx and Engel’s original writings and by looking at how Marxism has evolved over the last century and a half.

Just some of the ten criticisms of Marx Eagleton refutes – in ten chapters -include ..

  • Marxism is no longer relevant in a changed, classes society
  • Marxism is economically reductionist
  • Marxism has all too often lead to oppression
  • The notion that Marxism is about equality which is not possible
  • The idea that other struggles are more important – Feminism, anti-colonialism and ecological for example.

To summarise the very short (one page) conclusion on why Marxism is still relevant!

  1. Marx had a passionate faith in the individual and a suspicion of abstract dogma
  2. He Marx  was in fact wary of the notion of equality and did not dream of a future in which we all wear boiler suits. It was diversity, not uniformity that he hoped to see.
  3. He was even more hostile to the state that right-wing conservatives are, and say socialism as the deepening of democracy, not as the enemy of it.
  4. His model of the good like was based on the idea of artistic self expression.
  5. He believed that some revolutions might be peacefully accomplished and was in no sense opposed to social reform.
  6. He did not focus narrowly on the manual working class. Nor did he see society in terms of two starkly polarised classes, he was well aware of the growing power of the middle classes even in 1860.
  7. He did not make a fetish of material production – he thought this should be done away with as far as possible. His ideal was leisure.
  8. He lavished praise on the middle class and saw socialism as the inheritor of its great legacies of liberty, civil rights and material prosperity.
  9. His views on nature and the environment were for the most part startlingly in advance of his time. There has been no more staunch champion of women’s emancipation, world peace or the struggle for colonial freedom that Marxism more generally.
This would be a great read for students – it’s very accessible, although at times it does drift into a rather sarcastic tone and sometimes assumes you know something about Marx’s original works too, still, highly recommended -

Posted in Marxism, Things I like | No Comments »

Fifa – a bunch of crooks?

Posted by Realsociology on 17th May 2011

OK it was five months since Russia won the 2018 world cup bid, but the investigations into FIFA’s corruption are ongoing  fifaand this is a very good example of how the transnational elite are corrupt.

Panorama did a programme about this a few months ago, you can watch it till the end of 2011 (roughly) on iplayer

This week a parliamentary select committe heard some allegations about how the Russian bid may have been secured. Lord Triesman, the former head of the FA, testified that Jack Warner, vice-president of FIFA, had proposed that England build a football academy in his native Trinidad at the cost of 2.5 million in return for his vote. The Paraguayan, Brazilian and Thai (he’s going to sue over the allegation that he’s corrupt btw) representatives also made demands of the english delegation in return for their votes.

Then there’s the claim that two African members of FIFA were each paid one million dollars in return for their voting for Qatar to hold the world cup in 2022.

So out of 24 members of the executive committe,  there is sufficient evidence for accusations to be made against 5 of them of serious corruption. Just goes to show – it’s not just the ‘feckless underclass’ who are criminal!

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Marxism | No Comments »

The incredible immorality of corporate greed

Posted by Realsociology on 4th October 2010

 

How Capitalism encourages individuals to be selfish

Post to supplement class HO on ‘Crimogenic Capitalism’

The next time you enjoy an ice cold coke, try to look beyond the cute Christmassy connotations, get beyond the warm reassuring notion that ‘there’s always coca cola’ and take some time out to discover the not so refreshing truth that lies behind the sickly sweet image of one the most enduring icons of the 21st century. Really discover the ‘real thing’.

It takes 2.72 litres of water to produce 1 litre of coca cola[1]. Now this may sound like a reasonable ratio for such a deliciously sweet beverage, but not if you happen to be a farmer living close by to Coca Cola’s Kaladera plant in Rajasthan, North East India. According to recent independent report, commissioned by coca cola, “[the factory’s] presence in this area would continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around,” concluding that the company should find alternative water supplies, relocate or shut down the plant.[2]

The result of coke’s presence in the water depleted region is that local farmers who have lived in the area for decades now have inadequate water supplies to keep their crops watered and there appears to be a clear link between the coca cola Corporation moving into the region and the destruction of the livelihood of the farmers living nearby. Coca Cola, which had an advertising budget of $2.6 billion[3] in 2006, is clearly in a position to compensate these farmers, or relocate to a more water rich area, but chooses not to. Coca Cola’s priority clearly lies in maintaining its sickly sweet image while generating famine and poverty for those living in proximity to its factory.[4][5]

The farmers of Rajasthan have it easy, however, compared to unionised workers at some of Coke’s bottling factories in Columbia. Campaigners have documented a ‘gruesome cycle of murders, kidnappings and torture of union leaders involved in a daily life and death struggle’ at these plants. The bosses at some of Coke’s factories in Columbia have contacts with right wing paramilitary forces, and use violence and intimidation to force unionised labour out of work, and then hire non unionised labour on worse contracts for half the pay. There have been more than 100 recorded disappearances of unionised labour at Coke’s factories.[6]

Now the Coca Cola Corporation is obviously not directly to blame for this, as Columbia is one of the more violent countries on the planet, and this culture of violence and intimidation is widespread. The company is, however, responsible for making the conscious decision to choose to invest in a region well known for such practices, and failing to either pull out or protect its workers.

Now, before you purchase your next coca cola (or related product), pause to reflect, and ask yourself:

  • In areas of water scarcity, should priority of use be given to farmers who have lived there for generations to meet their basic human needs such as for drinking, watering crops and washing, or should priority be given to a multinational to produce a sweet fizzy beverage that has little nutritious value for consumption by the world’s wealthiest nations.
  • Is it acceptable for a company to continue producing in a country where its local managers use violence to kill those members of a work force who have joined a union?

If your answer is no to the above questions, and you don’t like the idea of living in a world of poverty, misery, and violence, then don’t drink coke ever again, because if there is any truth in the notion of there ‘always [being] coca cola’ then there is also a good chance there will always be human misery and environmental disaster in the wake of its production because available evidence suggests that Coke’s profits are more important than basic human rights.   

Coke is merely one example of one product produced by one company that harms people and the environment in its productive process. It really is just the red and white tip of one very large, very wealthy, and very powerful corporate iceberg, and that iceberg is unlikely to go into melt down any time soon. There are many other cases where the pursuit of Corporate Self Interest has lead to obvious harm of workers, the environment and local communities.

In addition to the increasingly well documented cases of companies such as Nike being involved in sweat shops labour[7], two other fairly widely known examples are those of Shell in Nigeria failing to clear up pollution of the tribal lands of the Ogoni people caused by it’s oil pipelines leaking[8]; and the Nestle Corporations policy of providing free samples of its baby milk formula to new mothers in developing countries which resulted in their breast milk drying up and their becoming dependent on this formula, having to pay after the first few weeks had been used up.[9]

Many commentators, even mainstream conservatives, have also pointed out that one of the root causes of the credit crunch was the greed and self interest of bankers who lent money to people who they knew could not afford to service the debt it in order to improve their profit margins. This created a massive debt bubble that eventually lead to economic decline and a massive tax payer bail out of financial institutions.[10] [11]

A further, softer, criticism of the morality of the corporate sector can be constructed by taking a critical look at the usefulness of the goods some corporations actually produce. There are dozens of corporations which the technological know how to produce useful products that could improve the lives of millions, but instead they plough their resources into producing goods that will benefit the rich, because selling to the wealthy generates more profit than producing socially useful goods. Pfizer, for example produces Viagra; and Oil corporations have persistently refused to invest in greener technologies all the time there are oil reserves they can tap into.[12]

Probably the most worrying example of extreme Corporate immorality is the recent growth of Corporations such as British Aerospace, Blackwater and Haliburton which derive a significant part of their revenue from providing services to the military sector, in the form of the development of weapons systems, the provision of private security forces (mercenaries), in addition to the provision of more mundane services such as rebuilding infrastructure and providing meals for the armed forces.  We thus have an expanding private sector that increasingly relies on wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan for a significant portion of their revenue.[13]  

So to summarise so far, if we look at just a few examples of our not so cute and cuddly  corporations we know that, in the course of increasing profits, they deprive communities of the resources they need to survive (Coca Cola), pollute land through which their resources are transported (Shell), encourage dependency on their products (Nestle and Monsanto), choose to sell unnecessary goods to the wealthy rather than use their resources to help the needy (Pfizer, all oil and car corporations), and seam to have little compunction over profiting out of war (Halliburton and BAE). 

 


[1] http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=4492835

[2] http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/business/uk-environment-group-accuses-coke-of-depleting-water-in-rajasthan-2_10013709.html

[3] http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/contactus/faq/advertising.html

[4] http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=kqE40Oc1CXo&feature=related

[5] See Mark Thomas’s book (2008) Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola

[6] http://www.killercoke.org/pdf/KCBroch.pdf

[7] http://www.nosweat.org.uk/

[8] http://www.ratical.org/corporations/OgoniFactS.html

[9] http://www.thecorporation.com/ gives details on the documentary ‘The Corporation’.

[10] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7525724.stm

[11] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news-old/columnists/reade/2008/10/09/make-greedy-bankers-feel-the-pain-of-the-credit-crunch-115875-20787539/

[12] www.monbiot.com ‘The Other Bail-Out, 7th October ‘08

[13] See Naomi Klein’s book (2008) The Shock Doctrine

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Global Development, Marxism, Sociological Theory | No Comments »

Work is more violent than the streets!

Posted by Realsociology on 2nd September 2010

According to Professor Steve Tombs anyway – in this report where he compares the costs of work based crime (deaths and injury caused by breaches of Health and Safety law) with the costs of street crime

http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/opus685/crisisenforcementweb.pdf

Although such comparisons can only be broadly

indicative, they do lead us to the rather undeniable

conclusion – that work is much more likely to be a

source of violence in Britain than those ‘real’ crimes

recorded by the Home Offi ce.

 

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Marxism | No Comments »

Thinking Allowed – White Collar Crime

Posted by Realsociology on 2nd September 2010

The link below will take you to the ‘Thinking Allowed’ archive for Crime and Deviance – if you scroll down you will find three programmes on ‘White Collar Crime’ – The programmes look at the culture, practice and prosecution of white collar crime, with Laurie speaking to leading academic experts and professionals on both sides of the law.

A summary of these three programmes can be found at 

(see http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/thinkingallowed/thinkingallowed_crime_deviancy.shtml) says:

You should listen to these programmes for yourselves. Some of the key findings are as follows –

 

Point 1 – Evidence that Corporate Crime is harmful

Criminologist Garry Slapper, argues that Corporate and white collar crime cause considerable harm

Some dreadful deaths happen as a result of corporate negligence – Workers have been buried alive, eloctocuted, fallen into vats of chemicals. However,  breaches of health and safety law are often considered to be ‘not really crime’ (Croal). Those who commit the corporate crimes which maim and kill are hidden from view.

Steph Tombs and Dave White – criticise the lack of moral compulsion. Base line figure – HS executive – about 200 people die each year, 500-600 if you dig into it, max estimate is that up to 50 000 die each year because of a result of exposure to substances at work

At one point the programme interviews an accountant called John who worked for a local authority and who illeagally siphoned £360 000 from client’s accounts over a four year period. This amount barely registers compared to other Frauds, but £360 000 would make the top ten list of amounts stolen in face to face robberies.  

Mark Levi assesses the amount of damage done by fraud – (despite the obvious problems) – a conservative estimate was that it costs the UK economy £11.5 billion – £20 billion if one includes income tax fraud -2005 figures.

Former senior police officers who worked on White Collar Crime – argue that unreported white collar crime represents a ‘serious economic attack on the country’

A city insider argues that systemic fraud is built into the very structure of a market place (think big city stock broking firms.) He argues that many at the top of these companies are fuelled on cocaine and  points out that you only reach these organisations by being dominating – and once you get to the top, you will do what is necessary to stay there – if Fraud is necessary you will commit Fraud.

He argues that city types justify their crimes by talking of ‘being in a war’ with other companies, or being in ‘a battle of survival’ he also argues that they talk in aggressive macho language – when taking over other companies – ‘ we’ve got to bust or rape that company’

 

 

Point 2 – White Collar and Corporate Crimes have a very low prosecution and clear up rate

Q – The clear up rate – the proportion of detected fraud is 5% – why so low???

Reason 1 – While the opportunities for fraud have increased exponentially because of the growth of the internet. You don’t have to look far to witness them – the Nigerian Government fraud squads have been stripped and declined over the last ten to fifteen years

Reason 2 – Garry Slapper – argues these agencies are too under resourced to actually regulate let alone prosecute –  there is 1 building inspector for every 3000 building sites

Reason 3 – There is also a culture of negligence towards crime and fraud prevention – The Financial Services Authority or the Health and Safety Authority (who are the bodies who prosecute corporate and financial criminals) do not see the same moral compulsion to prosecute as ordinary Police Officers tackling Gun Crime.

70% of deaths at work are caused by violation of law – the average fine for a worker death is about  £50 000 even where you cans show where the director of a company is responsible

Record Health and Safety fine was in Runcorn in the NW against ICI – due to a mercury leek – £300 000 fine, -0.1% of profit for that year.

HSE –46% decline in Health and Safety Prosecutions over the last 6 years, even though the number of deaths and accidents have remained roughly the same.

Very complex array of agencies – and it is easy to defend against, also used to

Corporate Manslaughter act (2008) should make this easier.

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Marxism, Social Policy | No Comments »