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Labor force as a well-defined entity laboring in a capital driven economic system came into earnest existence with the advent of the industrial revolution. The need for geographically concentrated human mass (beast) to help crank out various commodities facilitated the springing up of towns and cities across the world. Without industrialization, urbanization would have remained mostly a phenomenon of ports of call. As old-fashioned industrialization, (with its associated proletariats) gives way to newer forms of mass production that require less and less of the masses, urban centers with large industrial enclaves are destined to become extinct, so to speak. Think Detroit!
Only about half a century ago, Detroit was, (on per capita basis) the richest city on earth. Today, the automobile capital of the world is bankrupt and its inhabitants continue to abandon the city in droves. Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and many other industrial/urban centers are also on the verge of bankruptcy, unless they are deemed too big to fail! We could have mentioned former affluent cities, for example in the UK; (the heartland of old industrialization) Liverpool, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, etc., but that is old story. What then will be the impacts of labor-light industrialization on both the core and the periphery of the modern world system?
In regards to us poor, the current state of play in the world system, just like in the nineteen & twentieth centuries, remains essentially the same; the continuous depravation or polarization of the peripheries and the semi-peripheries, euphemism and propaganda aside. Structurally built-in unequal systems of exchanges still uphold (like before) the pillars of the current project of a more protracted polarizing globalization. Such lopsided regimes/set ups conspire to thwart off indigenous initiatives that try to mitigate mass/labor problematic in countries of the poor. Moreover, the illusion that we will all (ultimately) become like the rich, (OECD) if we only imitate what they did, is at best naïve, if not stupid! Unfortunately, stupidity is not in short supply when it comes to us, the African elites and as a result, our enslavement will most likely continue uninterrupted in the foreseeable future!
Given the scenario of labor-light industrialization (production/services), how is the entrenched economic system to distribute income to the beast, (human mass) so that it keeps on consuming what is made and facilitated by robots? This is one of the major problems confronting the global system today. The OECD countries also face, besides the above, demographic challenges; aging population and zero/negative population growth rate. In these countries, consumers account (on the average) for over 60% of GDP, further shrinking existing demand! Naturally the above conundrum is bound to spell trouble for the world, as the OECD is a good portion of the global economy. Realistically speaking, deflation/depression might not be avoidable! Pronounced or not, it is such things that are now keeping policy makers awake, in the West/Japan, almost all nights! What does these mean to us? Are we ready to learn from such experiences?
Outright deflation in the developed world will inevitably affect us by way of less demand for Africa’s raw materials/commodities. But outdated schooling, which we continue to cherish at our peril, in all likely hood cannot/will not forewarn us, learned pontification aside. We believe Africans have to start seeing reality for what it is rather than hallucinate about the make-believe world we have been sublimely indoctrinated to! Just look what happened to the world in the past ten years and the threatening new developments; Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Cote d’ Ivoire, Egypt, Mali, Central African Republic, DRC, South Sudan, etc., etc? Connecting the dots, starting from systemic crisis (resource depletion, financial/economic mayhem, ecosystem limits, etc.,) to global wars, is something our useless learning has not prepared us to draw. Mark our words, if deflation/depression takes hold of western economies, like Japan, we will encounter major conflagrations/wars all over the world; remember the great depression & WWII? Moreover, the global system that keeps on making mere drones out of humans might not be sustained going forward, contrary to what the 1% think!
Here are two differing views of human labor that lie, unresolved of course, at the root of the prevailing modern world system. “Labor is a commodity just like corn or beans or oil or gold, and the value of it needs to be determined by the competition, supply and demand in the workplace.” Steve King (R-IA) the US House of Representatives.
Samuel Gompers, cigar maker-turned-labor organizer and founder of the American Federation of Labor in the early 20th Century, had a different perspective: “You cannot weigh the human soul in the same scales with a piece of pork.” As the beast becomes increasingly aware of its position within the system, it will inevitably start to take matters in its own hands. Currently, bitterness is creeping up in the very core of the system. “We have built a machine for dehumanization of such force and destructive power through its accumulated assaults on human dignity, that we are creating kinds and degrees of damage to human beings beyond anything ever known, with totally unforeseeable consequences,” Charles Reich (in his book, ‘Opposing the System.’) Good Day!