A guide to all the jargon you’ll hear at the summer school. Anarchism Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates stateless societies, often defined as self-governed voluntary institutions, based on non-hierarchical free associations. There are …

A guide to all the jargon you’ll hear at the summer school.

Anarchism

Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates stateless societies, often defined as self-governed voluntary institutions, based on non-hierarchical free associations. There are many types and traditions of anarchism. As a political philosophy, it draws on many currents of thought; they can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism.

Capitalism

Capitalism it is a system of production and distribution of goods and services and it governs the allocation of resources in our society. It differentiate itself from other economic systems because it is characterized by the private ownership of the means of production (such as factories, offices, and shipping enterprises) and by the fact that market forces determine the way in which goods are produced and the means by which income and profit are distributed.

Central in the functioning of capitalism is capital accumulation and wage labour. The former refers to the process of gathering capital in order to invest for the purpose of making more capital; this activity forms the basis of capitalist economic system. Wage labour concept refers to the relationship between workers and an employers, where the workers sell their labour power under a formal (or informal) employment contract; This social relation, legalised by this contract, allows capitalists to extract value from workers. The workers are paid less than the value they produce and this contribute to the mechanism of capital accumulation.

There are different models of capitalism according to the role of intervention and regulation and the scope of public ownership; these include laissez-faire capitalism, welfare capitalism and state capitalism.

Deregulation

The term deregulation is usually referred to the process of reducing state regulation and it is supported by the process of liberalisation of the economy. There is no such thing as “deregulation” per se; it is rather a process of re-regulation, subjecting economic activity to the regulation of market mechanisms rather than the one of the state.

Financialisation

The process of financialisation is usually referred to the increased role and influence of financial capital and financial instruments in the current configuration of capitalism. Finance allows capital to move quickly around the world in order to look for more profitable investment. The de-regulation of financial market combined with its capacity of moving quickly, produce speculations and capital flow volatility.

This process affects strongly the international organisation of production and workers organisation. It supports the transnationalisation of production and it facilitates the concentration of income and wealth. Workers’ organisations are weakened and they have to bargain their conditions under the constant threat of capital flights.

Internationalism

Internationalism is a movement which advocates a greater economic and political cooperation among nations for the theoretical benefit of all. Partisans of this movement claim that nations should cooperate because their long-term mutual interests are of greater value than their individual short term needs. Internationalism is not necessarily anti-nationalist but is by nature opposed to ultra-nationalism and chauvinism. It supports the idea that the people of all nations have more in common than they do differences, consequently nations should treat each other as equals.

Internationalism is also referred to proletarian internationalism or international socialism. This is a concept based on the view that capitalism is now a global system and therefore the working class must act as a global class. Workers all around the world have more in common with each other than they have with capitalists in their own countries. In this view workers should struggle in solidarity with their fellow workers in other countries on the basis of a common class interest.

Informalisation of Labour

The informalisation of the labour market represents a process in which the ratio of the informal labour force to the formal labour force increases over time. This term is often used more narrowly to refer to the informalisation of once-formal jobs mainly in developed countries, but it can also represent the high percentage of informal labour in developing economies. In developed countries together with the concept of “non-standard work” this term refers to forms of work that do not -or no longer- conform to regular, covered by legal or social protections, full-time employment with a single employer. There are many forms of informal jobs, it is useful to think about a continuum spectrum among an unpaid family worker in home-based unit and an self-employed in informal enterprises.

Neoliberalism support the process of informalisation of labour giving emphasis on global deregulation and opening spaces for non-state forms of regulation. For instance it supports the “roll-back of the state” but.. only for labour! State is crucial to reproduce informalisation. (For instance: who decides to plan and create an Export-Processing-Zone?)

Keynesism

Keynesism or Keynesian Economics is an economic theory presented by the British economist John Maynard Keynes. He contrasted the neoclassical idea that free market would have reached automatically full employment and he argues that state intervention is necessary to moderate the “boom and bust “ cycles of economic activity. This theory argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient outcomes, which require active policy responses by the State. This theory proposes some improvement to rather than challenge capitalist economic system.

Historically Keynesianism has served as the standard economic model in the developed nation during the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war economic expansion; it has lost influence following 1973 but after the global financial crisis in 2008 we are witnessing its resurgence.

Liberalism

Liberalism is a political philosophy that endorses the idea of limiting the powers and the intervention of the state in order to preserve natural rights and to protect and to enhance the freedom of the individual. Historically liberalism arises beside the fight of bourgeoisie against absolute monarchy and aristocracy privileges.

Liberalism has contributed to the construction of the modern idea of society, entailed as sum of the different and variegated human expressions. As well as it has had a strong influence on the idea of democracy. Indeed, we refer to liberal democracy when we entail the modern democracy based not only on the will of the majority, but above all, on the respect of the minorities.

It diverges from economic liberalism that is an economic theory that supports free enterprise and free trade while the role of the state is marginalised to the protection of private property and the construction of infrastructures useful for the functioning of the market.

Marxism

Marxism is a social and political theory based on the thought of Marx and Engels, two philosophers, economists and revolutionaries of the XIX century. It provides a tool to analyse our society and its development; in particular, it gives a theory of history, a detailed analysis of the functioning of capitalism and an economic and political program to transform the society.

Marxism emphasises the idea that society is dived in “classes”. These classes are identified by their relations to the means of production. Capitalist society is characterised by the presence of two main classes, the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. While the former own the means of production, the latter exchanges its labour-power in the labour market for a wage. The concept of social classes is more than a descriptive category; it is used to explain how and why societies change. In a Marxist perspective the struggle between these classes is fundamental to transform social relations and consequently for the development of the human history.

As a political theory, Marxism exposes the functioning and the contradictions inherent in Capitalism economic system (for example: workers’ exploitation; the necessity for the capitalists’ class to pay workers less than the value they produce) and point the way towards the establishment of a future communist society where the means of production are held in common for the benefit of everyone in society. In this society class conflict is finally resolved and this represents the “end of history”.

Nationalisation

Nationalisation is the process of taking a private industry or private assets into public ownership by a national government or state.

Neoliberalism

“Neoliberalism is in the first instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices. The state has to guarantee, for example, the quality and integrity of money. It must also set up those military, defence, police and legal structures and functions required to secure private property rights and to guarantee, by force if need be, the proper functioning of markets. Furthermore, if markets do not exist (in areas such as land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution) then they must be created, by state action if necessary. But beyond these tasks the state should not venture. State interventions in markets (once created) must be kept to a bare minimum because, according to the theory, the state cannot possibly possess enough information to second-guess market signals (prices) and because powerful interest groups will inevitably distort and bias state interventions (particularly in democracies) for their own benefit” (David Harvey 2005)

“We live in the age of neoliberalism”. Since the mid-70s neoliberalism practical implementation resulted in the concentration, to an ever-increasing degree, of power and wealth within transnational corporations and elite groups. It is possible to identify four pillars of Neoliberalism:

1)     Liberalisation (capital should be able to move from one place to another without constraints. Liberalisation of commodity and investment, not people of course…).

2)     Financialisation (see above) (Capital should be able to move also in other and faster forms).

3)     Privatisation (Capital should be able to move in the “public sectors”; something that was considered a common good needs to produce profit for private owners).

4)     Informalisation of Labour (Labour should not be organised and should be regulated only by the functioning of the “free” labour market).

Privatisation

Primarily, it is the process of transferring ownership of business, enterprise, agency, public service, or public property from the public sector (a government) to the private sector, either to a business that operates for a profit or to a non-profit organisation. It may also mean government outsourcingof services or functions to private firms, e.g. revenue collection, law enforcement, and prison management.

In other words this term cover all the initiatives designed to increase the role of private enterprises in using society’s resources and public assets by reducing or restricting the roles that governments or public authorities play in such matters.

 

 

 


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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