Tag Archives: Anti-Capitalism

Dolce and Gabbana – tax evaders and sweat shop entrepeneurs – not that you’d know

Dolce and Gabbana - a sick, amoral  pair of self obsessed posers
Dolce and Gabbana - a pair of self obsessed amoral posers

A Milan prosecutor has requested that Dolce and Gabbana be put on trial for alleged tax evasion amounting to one billion Euros. What they have basically done is funnelled royalties on their brands through a sister company in Luxembourg, paying a much lower tax rate of tax in that country and avoiding paying the higher rate of tax in Italy.

Despite this being the ‘tax evasion case of the century’ This article from the guardian points out the Media in Italy have barely mentioned the case, so those who rely on the mainstream media in Italy for their information would be blissfully unaware of D and G’s aversion to paying their fair share. The article speculates that this is because D and G spend considerable amounts advertising in the mainstream media and because they are very well networked in Italian high society.

This is a good example of how those with money and social networks can use them to distort media reporting to keep information that is harmful to them outside of the mainstream media.

Something else Dolce and Gabbana probably wouldn’t want you know – you know it’s coming – yes – some of their stuff is made in sweat shop conditions – despite the fact that their clothes sell for ludicrous amounts and the tax evasion….

One subcrontractor comments – “They send me the materials and my team stitch, glue and finish the bags. I pay my 100 workers £2 an hour, but they are happy. They sleep in a dormitory above the workshop and I feed them. D&G sell the bags for up to £1,000 a time.”

However, while D and G take steps to hide the true extent of their class exploitation, they seem to be much happier expressing their contempt for women – as their use of  anorexic models suggests (not that it matters because fashion doesn’t encourage anorexia according to DG) as does that notorious rape fantasy add from 2007.

Then again, is it realistic to expect people working in the fashion industry to have a social conscience? They make their money out of producing socially useless products that encourage self -obsession after all.

Thinking Allowed – Supermax

Supermax prisons are on the increase the United States – these are prisons where prisoners are kept in extreme solitary confinement – sometimes for years at a time. In this podcast Criminologist Sharon Shalev provides some details some of the findings from her latest book – which draws on her access to two supermax prisons and is based on in-depth interviews with prison officials, prisoners and others.

Shalev notes that there are about 30 000 prisoners in solitary confinement in the US and 44 states have supermax prisons.

The increase in supermax is indicative of the ‘popular punitiveness’ identifitied by Criminologists such as Robert Reiner and David Garland – Shalev acknowledges that the increase was correlated with the rise of conservative (neo-liberal) power in the US in 1990s. See also my previous blog entry that summarises Richard Wilkinson’s work on how more unequal countries (like America) get more punitive.

According to Shalev, what is also interesting is how we increasingly don’t care about the negative long term effects on the mental health of these prisoners. Supermax signifies that the idea of prison is moving towards pure retribution rather than punishment. Could this also be a consequence of 30 years of neo-liberalism? – That there has been a cultural shift to a harsher ‘I don’t care’ attitude towards other people? Sociologists such as Reiner would agree with this – which is an extension of  Marxist (David Gordon) ‘dog eat dog’ theory.

I quite fancy reading her books btw – if someone buys it me for Christmas it’d be much appreciated, ta.

Sociology on TV – Fashion’s dirty secrets

dispatchesThe latest episode of dispatches demonstrates how garments destined for New Look and Peacocks are being made in sweat shop conditions in Leceister.

The company making these garments (Sammi Leisure Wear) pays workers less than the minmimum wage – £2.50 to £3.00 and hour and the workers work in aweful conditions – no windows, very cramped, blocked fire exits, and no safety guards on sewing/ cutting machines. 

New_Look
Profiting from sweatshop labour in the UK

The aweful pay and conditins means that the production of theses garments is in breach of New Look’s ethical code of practise. Of course New Look can claim they do not know about the conditions in the factory – and they probably don’t – (they are now investigating conditions themselves) – New Look places an order with a subcontractor for a certain price and the subcontractor delivers – without informing New Look about the immoral and illeagal practises that go on in the factory. To be fair to New Look – Sammi Leisure Wear was actually sewing fake labels into the garments saying they had come from abroad.

It is also interesting to note how subcontracting is used by a company to deny responsibility for the sweatshop – the subcontracting allows them to claim that they do not know it was going on – my arguement is that they must – all they have to do is basic maths to work out that someone, somewhere is getting exploited in order for them to make such profit margins.

Also think about how the law is applied differently here –buying and selling stolen goods is an offence – but as far as I know buying something that was produced by a company that exploits it workforce by making them work in sweatshop conditions and breaches health and safety law isn’t illegal. Perhaps New Look should spend more money in investigating working conditions in its factories and less money promoting its fake ethical image.

The web site of the programe is worth a look – it ends on the following note –

So where does the buck for this level of exploitation stop? Campaigning groups say the retailers need to take responsibility and place the factories under closer scrutiny. Others say the government needs to step in and regulate the fashion industry. But what about our responsibilities as consumers? Instead of buying blindly perhaps we should stop to ask more questions about where and how these clothes are made. After all, they’re not being stitched thousands of miles away, but right here on our doorstep by people who are being exploited because of our insatiable appetite for dirt cheap fashion.

Neo Liberalism and rising crime

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In this book (published 2008)Robert Reiner analyses trends in crime since the 1950s and argues that neoliberal economic policies are associated both with higher levels of serious crime than social democracies and with more punitive and inhumane crime control.

Reiner argues that there are three main historical trends in crime post World War Two:

  • 1950s – 1980s – rapid recorded crime rise
  • 1980s – 1992 – crime explosion
  • 1992 onwards – Ambiguously falling crime.

In this post I will outline Reiner’s analysis of why crime trends have varied over the last six decades, focussing especially on how neo-liberalism lead to rapidly increasing crime rates during the 1980s and 1990s.

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1950s – 1980s – rapid recorded crime rise

Reiner argues that a variety of factors lead to increasing crime during this period. Among them are –

  1. The 1950s was the decade when we entered the age of mass consumerism – it was the first decade where it was regard as normal and desirable to have a high level of consumption of material goods.
  2.  Reiner explicitly notes the role of television in ushering in a consumer culture and the norm of ‘immediate gratification’ – ‘ It is perhaps no coincidence that the rise in crime began in the same year (1955) that ITV, the first commercial channel, began to broadcast’,
  3. Reiner argues that a combination of advertising and game show culture (stressing the idea that you can get rich quick for doing nothing) undermined the previously widespread norm of deferred gratification pointing out that criminals tend to be impulsive, insensitive, risk taking and short sighted – which in his eyes also describes the perfect consumer in a capitalist society.
  4. Reiner also reminds us that the mid 1950s saw a weakening of informal and formal controls. The 50s saw the emergence of independent youth cultures and declining deference to authority.

 

1980s – 1992 – crime explosion

Maggie Thatcher - She pimped our nation to neo-liberalism, created the underclass and spawned a high crime society
Maggie Thatcher - She pimped our nation to neo-liberalism, created the underclass and spawned a high crime society

Reiner argues that the neoliberal economic policies of Margaret Thatcher’s government was the key accelerant behind this ‘crime explosion’ From this section we can identify several factors that explain an increase in the crime rate –

  1. Increasing levels of long term unemployment
  2. An increase in insecure, low paid, casual jobs (McJobs)
  3. Declining wages for unskilled workers
  4. Increasing levels of inequality
  5. A culture of egoism – the ‘me’ society
  6. The withdrawal of public services and supports, especially for women and children,
  7. The erosion of informal and communal networks of mutual support, supervision and care;
  8. The spread of a materialistic, neglectful and ‘hard’ culture;
  9. The unregulated marketing of the technology of violence
  10. The weakening of social and political alternatives to neo-liberal political economy
  11. The spread of consumerist culture
  12. Increasing social inequality and exclusion, involved a heightening of Mertion ‘anomie’.
  13. The erosion of conceptions of ethical means of success being preferable, or of concern for others limiting ruthlessness.

 

 Reiner’s take on Neo-Liberalism and how it relates to crime…

Reiner says of Neo-Liberalism – It is the economic theory and practise that has swept the world since the late 1970s. As an economic doctrine it postulates that free markets maximise efficiency and prosperity by signalling consumer wants to producers, optimising the allocation of resources and providing incentives for entrepreneurs and workers. Beyond economics, however, neo-liberalism has become the hegemonic discourse of our culture’

Neoliberalism as culture and ethic

To neoliberals free markets are associated with democracy, liberty and ethics. Welfare states they claim have many moral hazards: they undermine personal responsibility, and meet the sectional interests of public sector workers but not the public. Neoliberals advocate market discipline, wand Public- private partnerships to counteract this.

Neolieralism has spread from the economic sphere to the social and cultural. The roots of contemporary consumer culture predate neoliberal dominance, but it has now become hegemonic. Aspirations and conceptions of the good life have become thoroughly permeated by materialist and acquisitive values. Business solutions, business news and business models permeate all fields of life from sport and entertainment to charities and even crime control.

Neoliberalisation has meant the financialisation of everything, penetrating everywhere from the stuff of dreams to the minutiae of everyday life. Money has become the measure of men and women with the ‘Rich List’ and its many variations ousting all other rankings of status.

 1992 onwards – Ambiguously falling crime

_44841640_trends_in_crime_466v3

Reiner says of crime in this period  –

  1. No grand narrative can help explain wy crime is falling.
  2. He dismisses the view that zero tolerance policing and mass incarceration have reduced the crime rate – because there is considerable evidence that crime rates have fallen in countries that haven’t employed these policies. It is very important to note that the ‘tough on crime’ approach is much more likely to be found in neoliberal countries such as Britain and is part of the ideology of neoliberalism. The New Right claim it is necessary to reduce crime – but this is a false claim because crime has been decreasing elsewhere!
  3. There has been a fall in long term unemployment that partially explains the fall in crime
  4. There has been a halt in the acceleration of inequality – which at least helps to explain why crime is not growing!

Reiner finishes off by noting that today there is a paradox of security – although crime has been going down since the mid 1990s, public fears of crime have not declined at anywhere near the same rate – there is thus a ‘reassurance gap’ – one of the reasons Reiner cites for this is that when we see increased measures of control – we think they must be there for a reason – so we assume the crime rate must be high. The paraphernalia of crime control reminds us that the risk of being a victim of crime is significant.

Look out for my next blog when I’ll be summarising Reiner’s views on the relationship between neo-liberalism and tougher measures of crime control

18 of the 23 Tory Cabinet are millionnaires

Hey – Just in case you were wondering why the Tories are making you and your parents pay for this current economic crises – part of the reason is perhaps because most of them are millionaires and they simply do not understand what life is like for ordinary people and can afford not to care about the rest of us.

A summary of a couple of recent news articles

18 of the 23 of the new cabinet are millionaires, according to an analysis by The Sunday Times.

David Cameron, the Old Etonian prime minister, is relative small fry: his £3.4m estimated fortune puts him only in sixth place in the ministerial rich list.

Top of the list is Philip Hammond, 54, the new transport secretary, with an estimated fortune of £7.1m. He made the biggest slice of his wealth through the property developer Castlemead.

George Osborne, 39, benefits from a 15% stake in his family’s upmarket wallpaper business, Osborne & Little, a firm valued at £12m. Osborne owes much of his wealth to inheritance

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, 43, a banker’s son!!!, is worth about 1.8 million

This article outlines details of a programme which claims that three ministers (Osborne amongst them) are avoiding taxes.

The programme also focuses on Mr Hammond, whose £7.5million fortune makes him one of the wealthiest of the Cabinet’s 18 millionaires. It suggests that his practice of paying himself share dividends instead of a salary from his property firm Castlemead is a tax-efficient device used by the wealthy and it claims that he moved to limit his exposure to the new 50p top rate of tax last year by moving shares in the firm into the name of his wife.

NB – The tories do not give a stuff about you – you have to make them care – by whatever means you think is appropriate!

Watch out for my next post – about Tory minister Andrew Mitchell – I will be explaining why he’s in the running for my ‘scum of the universe 2010 award’

Tory cuts – Britain’s Shock Doctrine

Hey kiddos – my predictions about the toryscum shafting people and planet for the sake of corporate profits have come true –

Check out this item  in which George Monbiot outlines how Giddeon’s cuts benefit his corporate chums.

A brief extract – ‘Public bodies whose purpose is to hold corporations to account are being swept away. Public bodies whose purpose is to help boost corporate profits, regardless of the consequences for people and the environment, have sailed through unharmed. The government’s programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business.’

Interestingly Monbit draws on Naomic Klein’s shock doctrine – one of the most important leftist books of this century – read it!

So if you think Marxism (well OK left-libertarianism) isn’t relevant – think again!

The incredible immorality of corporate greed?

 or How Capitalism encourages individuals to be selfish

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 Colombia. 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 Colombia 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 Colombia 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

Our uncritical acceptance of the budget cuts….

Another nice quote from Polly Toynbee’s blog about how we are accepting the need for budget cuts so uncritically…..In my mind this is a good example of neo-liberal hegemony.  

“It has become the grown-up, rational, received opinion that there is no alternative to budget cuts of unthinkable proportions. People believe that Labour spending, not global finance, caused the deficit. So strong is the stranglehold on most media, a brainwashed nation has most people blindly repeating the mantra that deficit reduction, fast and furious, is the only medicine. Any other course is Red poison. If Labour tries to talk of its own values, its convictions, its alternative view of the world, it is attacked for indulging in ideology, not practical economics.”

The wealth of the richest 1000 grew by £77bn last year

According to this article the richest 1000 people in the UK saw their wealth increase by a third last year-  an increase of £77bn – If I were in power I would give these people the opportunity to  donate these profits to socially useful public services – (no one can actually earn this much money after all), if they chose not to, I would jail them and forcibly take their assets for the benefit of all. It really is morally unnaccetable that we are facing cuts of billions of pounds from our public services while the rich just go on getting richer.

The government’s response to this situation is of course to put in place budgets that make the poor even poorer!

SocNews – TA – Do we have too much choice in our lives?

In this podcast Laurie Taylor, Renata Selacl and Rachel Bowlby discuss whether or not we have ‘Too much choice? (second half of the broadcast)

This is relevant to ‘criticisms of postmodern thought’

Having established that ‘choice’ is the dominant way in which we experience life today’ – pointing to the areas in which we have to make choices – what school to go to, whether to have a caesarian birth, what mortgage,holiday, care, what partner… and so on!!!  – two points of particular interest are –

Having too much choice can lead to anxiety – we constanly worry about ‘having made the right choices’ – and having made a choice – we sometimes worry that we have made the wrong choice and might focus on all the possibilities that have closed off to us a result – either way the net result of having too mcuh choice is anxiety. This challenges the idea that ‘more coice’ is automatically a good thing.

Secondly, there is the suggesting that we spend so much time making choices over relatively mundane things – that we lose sight of the bigger questions such as what’s wrong with society, where society is heading and issues such as social inequalities – Laurie Taylor in fact talks of us being ‘burdened’ with choice’ and there is a suggestion that ‘having to choose’ makes us less free and more powerless. ‘

I think the issue they are getting at is that we have choice over certain things – but only as consumers – and no real power to influence politics at a deeper level -the conservatives and labour and lib dems are all right wing for example. In this sense one can see consumerism as part of neo-liberal ideoligical control.

This clearly ties in with Bauman’s ideas.