PRECARITY AND YOUTH

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

COLLAPSE!

Text calling for debate on Political Collapse

As the economic crisis asserted itself with all its intensity in our societies, it became increasingly clear that it was being managed to serve the interests of a minority.

Far from the official discourse that presented the crisis to us as an inevitable, inescapable effect of forces removed from the will of states and governments and therefore its management as a purely technical question, reality showed in a regular and everyday manner to what point the prioritisation of the interests in dispute made management of the crisis a question of class.

This technocratic perspective on management of the crisis provided natural continuity to the predominant discourse of the globalisation process, as encapsulated by Margaret Thatcher’s famous “There is no alternative”.  This was a perspective reducing policy to simple technical expertise concerned with management.

One of the most striking symbolic successes of the 15M movement was precisely in making the inconsistency of this myth abundantly plain: globalisation and its policies obeyed a calculated economic and political design that served international capitalism and the classes that supported it.

The crisis has exacerbated another important issue that has progressively become consolidated but which, however, has seemed it would never go beyond certain limits. This is the replacement of the postwar social contract by a new social contract of a neoliberal matrix that made the minimisation of what is public and the subordination of policy to the market two of its most striking cornerstones.

The crisis has led to the abandoning of all restraint. The ruling classes have exploited the collapse in expectations produced and the fear of the middle classes of seeing their status and future deteriorate further.

However, there has been in both Spain and elsewhere a major political and social response that has challenged the measures employed to manage the crisis. In addition, the flag has been raised for what is public, understood to be what is shared, in health and education as the guarantees and rights of inclusive and caring societies.

It is precisely in its political dimension that the social-democratic social contract offered the chance for political inclusion through a citizenry related to the world of work. It offered actors emerging in the heat of the “worker’s condition” a relevant role in the new postwar constitutional consensus. Once the ruling classes launched their assault on the welfare state this contract ended up becoming an annoyance that also had to be done away with.

This situation lies at the heart of the political crisis and of the representation crisis that has borne a major impact on the political world as we have known it.

Finally, we should mention the ill-fated role of the European Union in this context. Far from optimism that this anomalous, original organisation would serve to provide a defence against the onslaught of the market, the current EU has revealed itself to be exquisitely functional to the logic of the global market and its demands. The EU has become in the eyes of the majority of citizens in the southern countries part of the problem and not the solution. In rich countries, the consolidation of the “egotism of welfare” has politicised the presence of the EU from identity, xenophobic or openly right-wing perspectives.

In short, this is a forum for debating all these issues and any others connected with them that form part of our concerns but especially of our attempt to rescue politics and the political for management by the majorities and the need for them to intervene in public life.

In this forum, we want to see the fuelling of debate – with as much controversy as is necessary – about criticism of politics in the current context. Above all, we hope that this debate will produce ideas and opinions on how to reconstruct the bridges of trust in politics (if such a thing is possible and desirable) and of representation that is more genuine and closer to the interests of the 99%.

Finally, in our opinion it is vital –now that the European elections have been and gone- to take seriously the debate on the EU and on its perspectives and ours. What do we do with this invention? What can we do?

First and foremost, we invite you to participate.

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SOCIAL COLLAPSE

Cuts in social protection and other adjustment measures signify a reshaping of the traditional welfare state (without forgetting between-country disparities) and mark an obvious retrograde step for citizen welfare. Many of these changes restrict access and facilitate the private sector’s entry into the management and provision of assets and services that previously enjoyed an eminently public and universal nature. This complex transformation process combines a series of measures aimed at commodification, privatisation and dismantling. While financial assistance and bailouts benefiting a small power nucleus continue, the new social policies widen the social divide still further and signify the collapse of a social model committed to justice and equity.

LABOUR COLLAPSE

The crisis in employment is a reality in Europe, a problem that even extends beyond its borders. Market access opportunities have decreased and the employment conditions and rights that previously guaranteed a job have deteriorated. This is the new situation for a growing proportion of Europe’s young people who, should nothing change, will have to make do with long periods of unemployment interspersed with precarious jobs. Increasingly, this entrenchment expands from youth to adult age and prevents not only economic empowerment and independence but also the possibility of planning for the mid- and long-term future, which ultimately means living from hand to mouth as a prisoner of uncertainty.

POLITICAL COLLAPSE

The inability of public institutions to solve the problems affecting citizens, combined with the effects of the crisis (greater inequality, increase in poverty etc.), foster discontent with politics at many levels of society. This crisis in the legitimacy of the European political model has given rise to contradictory processes. On the one hand, there is the danger of reduced participation by citizens in political life or the emergence of right-wing populism to fill the void left by the traditional political powers. On the other, there is a process of repolitisation of a part of society in search of new ways to participate politically, as demonstrated by the Indignant and Occupy movements. In both cases, the leading part played by Europe’s young people has been evident.

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