Thursday, January 06, 2011

Class dimorphism in the U.S. economy

The U.S. Congress opened yesterday, but that post can wait. Anyways, something not widely known or at least commented on if known about the United States is that the ratio between people who are unambiguously workers and those who aren't is roughly 50:50, possibly something like 55:45, with a big variation occurring in the income and job descriptions of those folks making up the bourgeois classes. I'm defining someone as belonging to the bourgeois class if they work in an office and do something that they need a college degree to get hired for. I base this on my own interpretation of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

But if the traditional notions about capitalism and what capitalist development should lead to are right, then how can the ratio be so close? There are a few reasons that I can see: first, a lot of the working class jobs have been outsourced to other countries and the administrative work of overseeing that production has stayed in the U.S; second, the way capitalism has developed regarding technology and general sophistication in production has created an interesting imbalance, which could be called a class dimorphism.

"Dimorphism" is a term used in biology, mostly to refer to differences in characteristics between males and females of the same species. If one is big and the other is small, or if one has bright colored feathers and the other doesn't, then those are cases of sexual dimorphism. The male and the female don't perfectly correspond to each other. Similarly, what has happened as capitalism has moved along, increasing in typical business size and organization as well as in technologica sophistication, is that more people are working on the design of products, the implementation of those designs, and the general organization of day to day business transactions, while less people are working on the actual realization of those designs. The latter is happening because increased efficiency means that more products can be produced with less people. There might be much planning going into all aspects of a product, something that has only steadily increased since the birth of corporate as opposed to smaller scale capitalism, but the product itself might be made with a smaller relative number of people, although not anything like the total lack of labor suggested by some theorists imagining how the future of work would be.

This lack of need in the home country merges with the administrative focus with regards to offshore production to create a situation where less workers are actually required to keep the economy going than was the case in the past.

No comments: