Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Both black and white workers sacrificed for U.S. Imperialism

Also known as Globalization. The interesting thing is that while globalization is hollowing out the U.S. economy for workers it's largely maintaining itself for bourgeois people on the other side of the class divide, despite the restructurings that place in the '90s. The continued presence of this class, plus foreign direct investment, may be what's keeping the U.S. economy from totally collapsing. But how can there be lots of bourgeois people without the corresponding amount of workers?

The answer lies in just what jobs are being off shored and what ones are staying put. The jobs that actually involved making stuff are being transferred to other countries but the jobs that involve running the companies, planning which way the companies should expand, essentially the higher level managerial and executive jobs with all of the white collar jobs that support them, are staying put.
People can still pull down middle class salaries because the workers that they ultimately direct still exist, they're just in Asia now. Working class folks in the U.S., both white and minorities, experience loss of good jobs while wondering why the rest of the country doesn't get it. The rest of the country largely doesn't get it because large parts of the wealthier folks aren't suffering the negative effects of globalization. It cascades, too.

Core companies and industries, companies that make stuff and sell stuff, support businesses that don't directly have anything to do with them like stores, restaurants, stuff that basically consists of consumer goods, but more like boutique goods. Upscale stores in the U.S. seem to be doing pretty well, even thriving, if Seattle is any gauge (which it is for reasons that I'll get to), while more working class oriented stores and restaurants that are independent seem to be fairing pretty badly because their customers have less money than they used to. So on the surface, if you're just paying attention to areas that are well off, things seem to be going ok, and you might even think that the idea that the U.S. is in a recession are kind of overblown.

Seattle is a great example both of how bourgeois people can prosper without corresponding amounts of workers and of how this prosperity can mask what's going on beneath the surface. In Seattle's case the prosperity isn't due to offshoring of businesses so much as the fact that although it has a global market Microsoft doesn't require almost any regular workers, comparatively, to manufacture and distribute its products. Microsoft sells lots and lots of software, it's based in Redmond, just across a bridge from Seattle, and the people who work there tend to make lots of money and spend it in Seattle, where loads of them live. This in turn means that very high level, expensive, specialty stores and restaurants that would die a slow death if the economy was going bad for everyone can flourish. It's easy to see driving through the well off neighborhoods in the northern half of Seattle like Wallingford or Greenwood. Or that downtown Seattle supports two very upscale malls in the center of the business district. Or that two suburbs, Bellvue and Kirkland, home to Microsoft employees, aren't just doing well but are expanding, with Bellvue undergoing a construction boom. These communities are isolated from the general state of the U.S. economy by their links to the global economy. Places populated by people who coordinate companies that make things in the Third World and sell them in the U.S. and Europe in all likelihood experience the same prosperity.

And Imperialism and Globalization. Imperialism refers to wealthy countries dominating small ones either directly or through economic control with some behind the scenes political control to bolster it. The era of Globalization is thought to eliminate that by making nation-states not matter anymore, but to me it looks like the abolition of nation-states doesn't eliminate the division between rich and poor countries. Instead, capitalists from the United States, Europe, and Japan are finding that they have more in common with each other than with the people who make up the countries that they're formally part of and are banding together to exploit the Third World with less divisions between them. The process is still one sided--the rich exploiting the poor, since it's not like Indonesian companies are making large inroads to the U.S. economy, but it's been masked with the idea that everyone is now going to play by the same global trade rules. Theoretically the U.S. and Europe are just as open to trade as El Salvador is, but in practice El Salvador is forced to open up their economy while U.S. trade barriers are viewed as less urgently important---although not totally ignored. It's instructive that the biggest trade battles have been between Europe and the United States, as well as between the U.S. and Canada, and not between any weak countries and any strong countries.

So in my opinion it's the same old imperialism using the mask of free trade-bourgeois ideology to cover up the structural disparities of the global economy.

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