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Economic Precarity and
Global Economic Forces
• According to Mijs, why are most
people not concerned about
social inequality?
• What forces, beliefs, or
viewpoints enable or perpetuate
this lack of concern?
• In other words, why are there not
widespread efforts to reduce
social inequality and promote
socioeconomic equity?
Key Terms: Social Class
(Conerly, pg. 255).
• Socioeconomic status (SES)—“an individual’s level of wealth, power, and
prestige”
• Class—“a group who shares a common status based on factors like wealth,
income, education, and occupation”
• Class traits/markers—“the typical behaviors, customs, and norms that
define each class”
• Meritocracy—“an ideal system in which personal effort—or merit—
determines social standing”
• Social mobility—“a societal change that enables a whole group of people to
move up or down the class ladder”
• Income—money received over some period of time in exchange for work, a
good or service, or return on an investment.
• Wealth—the total value of one’s assets minus their debts; the greatest asset
most Americans own is their home. “Wealth is the most significant way of
distinguishing classes, because wealth can be transferred to one’s children
and perpetuate the class structure” (pg. 243).
Key Terms: Social Inequality
• Socioeconomic inequality—the unequal accumulation and distribution of
wealth in a society (also called social stratification). Often, a society’s
beliefs (ideologies) may reinforce or serve to justify social stratification.
• Economic insecurity—exposure to or lack of protection from the economic
impact of sudden loss of income or sudden unexpected costs.
• Relative poverty—“not having the means to live the lifestyle of the average
person in your country” or part of the country.
• Absolute poverty—“deprivation so severe that it puts day-to-day survival in
jeopardy”
• Caste system—“a system in which people are born into a social standing
that they will retain their entire lives”
• Food insecurity—a state of worry or uncertainty about one’s ability to
purchase or obtain sufficient food to feed oneself and one’s family.
The American Dream and the Myth of Meritocracy
• What is the “American dream”?
• What do you need in 2024 to work toward that dream?
• What is a “meritocracy”? Why is this social system positioned as an
ideal?
Wealth and Home Ownership
Most Americans who have wealth
hold it in the form of equity built
through ownership of the house
they live in. Federal policies and
local practices have historically
made it possible for white families
to buy homes while making it
difficult, and at times impossible,
for nonwhite families to do so.
Who is “middle class”?
What does this term mean?
Adam Smith Institute (2015)
https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/education/addressing-the-real-problem-of-social-
mobility-in-education-2
The Limits of Social Mobility
Theories: Why does social inequality exist?
• Functionalism—Some types of work are more valuable than others,
and social inequality reflects that (Davis-Moore thesis). This theory
does not explain inequalities due to race or gender or those that stem
from systemic inequalities in education.
• Conflict—Some groups benefit from social inequality and therefore
work to preserve it. Class inequality = class oppression.
• Marx: Social inequality stems from various social groups’ relationship to
production as either owners (the bourgeoise) or workers (the proletariat).
“Marx believed workers experience deep alienation, isolation and misery
resulting from powerless status levels” (Conerly, pg. 253).
• Symbolic interactionism—Examines how social interactions reflect or
reinforce social inequality. (Most people interact primarily with people
of a social standing similar to theirs.)
“The Social Contract in an Era of Precarious Work”
by Arne Kalleberg (2012)
What is a “social contract”?
• Defined: “the mutual expectations and responsibilities that society and
individuals have toward each other. Explicit and implicit social
contracts in the post-WWII period emphasized collective solutions to
solving social problems, as well as long-term and fairly stable
relations between employers and their employees” (Kalleberg, pg. 3).
• An implicit relationship that binds governments, businesses, and
workers.
• In the absence of a social contract, workers bear a much greater
burden of risk without “social insurance or social security” (3).
• The social contract has been dramatically weakened at the same time
that precarious work has dramatically grown. These developments are
directly related.
What is precarious work?
• Precarious work breeds feelings of insecurity and anxiety, factors that
influence how work is experienced as well as “how families and
communities bear risks and how firms and society conduct business”
(Kalleberg, pg. 3).
• The rise of precarious work has been driven by “structural
transformations in labor markets” (3).
• “Precarious work is not new; it has existed since the beginning of paid
employment. But globalization, technological change, re-regulation of
labor markets, and the removal of institutional protections have shifted
the balance of power away from workers and toward employers and
made precarious work increasingly common across the globe” (3).
https://www.rs21.org.uk/2015/02/10/precarious-work-compression-and-class-struggle-leaps/
Why this greater instability?
• Intensified price competition due to globalization of labor, products,
and capital markets.
• Turn toward outsourcing and temporary/contract work in efforts to
reduce costs.
• New ways of thinking about the relationship between democracy and
capitalism: “Neo-liberal ideologies and policies have encouraged a
limited welfare state, weakening of unions, lowering of taxes and fees
on businesses, and fiscal discipline taking precedence over social
protections” (5).
• Neo-liberalism is the belief that “freedom” can be achieved through
“free markets.” According to this logic, governments should not
regulate the economy directly, as doing so risks limiting the freedom
of market players, e.g. businesses and entrepreneurs.
Rise of precarious work in the U.S. since the 1970s:
“transformation of employment relations toward greater uncertainty and instability”
1. Rise of “nonstandard employment relations”—contracting, temporary work.
2. Decline in job stability (length of time with one employer), experienced mainly
by men.
3. Weakening of internal labor markets, i.e. hiring and promotion “from within”
– rise in hiring from outside an organization rather than “develop the human
capital of their employees internally” (4).
4. Rise in involuntarily job loss, esp. for men in their prime working years and
those with white-collar jobs.
5. Increase in long-term unemployment (six months or more) since 1960s,
indicating economic shifts rather than shorter periods of “hard luck.”
6. Shifting of risk from employers to employees, esp. in terms of benefits like
health insurance, paid time off, and retirement funds.
7. Growing percentage of Americans “say they are insecure in their jobs” (4).
“Flexicurity”
Kalleberg argues that we need a new social contract rooted in
“flexicurity” “to provide workers with security in dealing with the
changes that have occurred in labor markets and employment
relations without jeopardizing the already considerable flexibility
upon which U.S. firms count” (5).
Dimensions of Flexicurity
• Economic security: workers need assurance of current and future
income to encourage them to invest in their companies and assume
some risks of doing business. Key components: health insurance,
retirement, and unemployment and wage supports.
• Representation security: allowance for collective representation (i.e.
“unions”) in a form that “forces employers to adopt long-term rational
strategies” (5).  Employers are less likely to abuse or exploit
workers if there is a high cost of doing so.
• Skill reproduction security: assistance for workers to cope with need to
move among jobs relatively regularly, e.g. access to education and
vocational training (e.g. information technology) to prepare them for
good jobs, not merely different jobs.
Key Terms
• Precarity—existing without predictability or security.
• Economic insecurity—exposure to or lack of protection from the
economic impact of sudden loss of income or sudden unexpected
costs.
• Socio-economic inequality—the unequal accumulation and
distribution of wealth in a society.
• Disparities—great differences, esp. in the bearing of risks or costs and
the distribution of assets.
• Food insecurity—a state of worry or uncertainty about one’s ability to
purchase or obtain sufficient food to feed oneself and one’s family.

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4.4.24 Economic Precarity and Global Economic Forces.pptx

  • 2. • According to Mijs, why are most people not concerned about social inequality? • What forces, beliefs, or viewpoints enable or perpetuate this lack of concern? • In other words, why are there not widespread efforts to reduce social inequality and promote socioeconomic equity?
  • 3.
  • 4. Key Terms: Social Class (Conerly, pg. 255). • Socioeconomic status (SES)—“an individual’s level of wealth, power, and prestige” • Class—“a group who shares a common status based on factors like wealth, income, education, and occupation” • Class traits/markers—“the typical behaviors, customs, and norms that define each class” • Meritocracy—“an ideal system in which personal effort—or merit— determines social standing” • Social mobility—“a societal change that enables a whole group of people to move up or down the class ladder” • Income—money received over some period of time in exchange for work, a good or service, or return on an investment. • Wealth—the total value of one’s assets minus their debts; the greatest asset most Americans own is their home. “Wealth is the most significant way of distinguishing classes, because wealth can be transferred to one’s children and perpetuate the class structure” (pg. 243).
  • 5. Key Terms: Social Inequality • Socioeconomic inequality—the unequal accumulation and distribution of wealth in a society (also called social stratification). Often, a society’s beliefs (ideologies) may reinforce or serve to justify social stratification. • Economic insecurity—exposure to or lack of protection from the economic impact of sudden loss of income or sudden unexpected costs. • Relative poverty—“not having the means to live the lifestyle of the average person in your country” or part of the country. • Absolute poverty—“deprivation so severe that it puts day-to-day survival in jeopardy” • Caste system—“a system in which people are born into a social standing that they will retain their entire lives” • Food insecurity—a state of worry or uncertainty about one’s ability to purchase or obtain sufficient food to feed oneself and one’s family.
  • 6. The American Dream and the Myth of Meritocracy • What is the “American dream”? • What do you need in 2024 to work toward that dream? • What is a “meritocracy”? Why is this social system positioned as an ideal?
  • 7. Wealth and Home Ownership Most Americans who have wealth hold it in the form of equity built through ownership of the house they live in. Federal policies and local practices have historically made it possible for white families to buy homes while making it difficult, and at times impossible, for nonwhite families to do so.
  • 8. Who is “middle class”? What does this term mean?
  • 9. Adam Smith Institute (2015) https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/education/addressing-the-real-problem-of-social- mobility-in-education-2 The Limits of Social Mobility
  • 10.
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  • 13. Theories: Why does social inequality exist? • Functionalism—Some types of work are more valuable than others, and social inequality reflects that (Davis-Moore thesis). This theory does not explain inequalities due to race or gender or those that stem from systemic inequalities in education. • Conflict—Some groups benefit from social inequality and therefore work to preserve it. Class inequality = class oppression. • Marx: Social inequality stems from various social groups’ relationship to production as either owners (the bourgeoise) or workers (the proletariat). “Marx believed workers experience deep alienation, isolation and misery resulting from powerless status levels” (Conerly, pg. 253). • Symbolic interactionism—Examines how social interactions reflect or reinforce social inequality. (Most people interact primarily with people of a social standing similar to theirs.)
  • 14. “The Social Contract in an Era of Precarious Work” by Arne Kalleberg (2012)
  • 15. What is a “social contract”? • Defined: “the mutual expectations and responsibilities that society and individuals have toward each other. Explicit and implicit social contracts in the post-WWII period emphasized collective solutions to solving social problems, as well as long-term and fairly stable relations between employers and their employees” (Kalleberg, pg. 3). • An implicit relationship that binds governments, businesses, and workers. • In the absence of a social contract, workers bear a much greater burden of risk without “social insurance or social security” (3). • The social contract has been dramatically weakened at the same time that precarious work has dramatically grown. These developments are directly related.
  • 16. What is precarious work? • Precarious work breeds feelings of insecurity and anxiety, factors that influence how work is experienced as well as “how families and communities bear risks and how firms and society conduct business” (Kalleberg, pg. 3). • The rise of precarious work has been driven by “structural transformations in labor markets” (3). • “Precarious work is not new; it has existed since the beginning of paid employment. But globalization, technological change, re-regulation of labor markets, and the removal of institutional protections have shifted the balance of power away from workers and toward employers and made precarious work increasingly common across the globe” (3). https://www.rs21.org.uk/2015/02/10/precarious-work-compression-and-class-struggle-leaps/
  • 17. Why this greater instability? • Intensified price competition due to globalization of labor, products, and capital markets. • Turn toward outsourcing and temporary/contract work in efforts to reduce costs. • New ways of thinking about the relationship between democracy and capitalism: “Neo-liberal ideologies and policies have encouraged a limited welfare state, weakening of unions, lowering of taxes and fees on businesses, and fiscal discipline taking precedence over social protections” (5). • Neo-liberalism is the belief that “freedom” can be achieved through “free markets.” According to this logic, governments should not regulate the economy directly, as doing so risks limiting the freedom of market players, e.g. businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • 18. Rise of precarious work in the U.S. since the 1970s: “transformation of employment relations toward greater uncertainty and instability” 1. Rise of “nonstandard employment relations”—contracting, temporary work. 2. Decline in job stability (length of time with one employer), experienced mainly by men. 3. Weakening of internal labor markets, i.e. hiring and promotion “from within” – rise in hiring from outside an organization rather than “develop the human capital of their employees internally” (4). 4. Rise in involuntarily job loss, esp. for men in their prime working years and those with white-collar jobs. 5. Increase in long-term unemployment (six months or more) since 1960s, indicating economic shifts rather than shorter periods of “hard luck.” 6. Shifting of risk from employers to employees, esp. in terms of benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement funds. 7. Growing percentage of Americans “say they are insecure in their jobs” (4).
  • 19. “Flexicurity” Kalleberg argues that we need a new social contract rooted in “flexicurity” “to provide workers with security in dealing with the changes that have occurred in labor markets and employment relations without jeopardizing the already considerable flexibility upon which U.S. firms count” (5).
  • 20. Dimensions of Flexicurity • Economic security: workers need assurance of current and future income to encourage them to invest in their companies and assume some risks of doing business. Key components: health insurance, retirement, and unemployment and wage supports. • Representation security: allowance for collective representation (i.e. “unions”) in a form that “forces employers to adopt long-term rational strategies” (5).  Employers are less likely to abuse or exploit workers if there is a high cost of doing so. • Skill reproduction security: assistance for workers to cope with need to move among jobs relatively regularly, e.g. access to education and vocational training (e.g. information technology) to prepare them for good jobs, not merely different jobs.
  • 21. Key Terms • Precarity—existing without predictability or security. • Economic insecurity—exposure to or lack of protection from the economic impact of sudden loss of income or sudden unexpected costs. • Socio-economic inequality—the unequal accumulation and distribution of wealth in a society. • Disparities—great differences, esp. in the bearing of risks or costs and the distribution of assets. • Food insecurity—a state of worry or uncertainty about one’s ability to purchase or obtain sufficient food to feed oneself and one’s family.

Editor's Notes

  1. https://www.ted.com/talks/dr_jonathan_mijs_why_you_don_t_care_about_inequality