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<nettime> LL:The Cause of the Unemployed

Members may be interested in this:

On 17 January 1998, the sociologists Pierre Bourdieu, Frederic
Lebaron and Gerard Mauge published in Le Monde the following
text, which they are now launching as a petition.

The Cause of the Unemployed

Those who have become known as 'the excluded' - those excluded
provisionally, temporarily, long term or for ever from the market-place of
work - are almost always those who have no voice, and who are excluded
from collective action. How has it happened then that after several years
of isolated and apparently hopeless effort by a minority of activists, a
collective action appears at last to have broken through the wall of media
and political indifference? 

At first, came the laughable panic and hardly disguised antipathy of
certain media professionals, journalists, trade unionists and the
political classes, who saw in these demonstrations by the unemployed
only a intolerabe brake to their shopkeepers' interests and their sole
monopoly of the right to speak on 'exclusion' and 'the national drama
of unemployment'.

Confronted by this unwelcome mobilisation, these professional
manipulators, these permanent occupiers of the heights of television, saw
in it only a 'manipulation of distress', an operation set up for the
media, the illegitimacy of a minority, or the illegality of peaceful
actions. Then came the spread of the movement and the erruption onto the
media and political scene of a small group of organised unemployed: the
first victory of the movement of unemployed is the movement itself (which
is helping to distract a bewildered population from the National Front)

The unemployed movement is at the same time the blue-print of a
collective organisation, and a chain reaction of which it is the product
and which it itself contributes to producing: from isolation,
depression, shame, personal resentment, revenge on scape-goats, to
collective mobilization; from resignation, passivity, individualization
and silence to gaining the right to speak; from depression to revolt,
from the individual unemployed person to the collectivity of the
unemployed, from misery to anger. That's how the slogan of the
marchers ends up in reality: "Who sows misery, reaps anger".

But also, it reminds us of some essential truths of neo-liberal societies,
which led to the movement of November-December 1995 and which the powerful
apostles of the "Tietmeyer thought" try so hard to disguise. In the first
place the undeniable relationship between unemployment rate and profit
rate. The two phenomena - the exorbitant consumption of some and the
misery of others - not only come together - while some get rich in their
sleep, the others become poorer by the day - they are also interdependent:
when the stock exchange rejoices, the unemployed suffer, the enrichment of
some is linked to the pauperization of the others. Mass unemployment
remains in fact the most effective tool in the hands of employers with
which to impose the stagnation or lowering of wages, to push up working
rythms, to deteriorate working conditions, to increase job insecurity, to
impose flexibility, to create new forms of domination in the work place
amd to dismantle the legal protection of workers. When the enterprises
"size down", with some of the "social schemes" announced flamboyantly in
the media, their investment returns rise spectacularly. When the
unemployment rate falls in the US, Wall Street is depressed. In France,
1997 has been the year all records were broken on the Paris Stock
Exchange. But above all, the movement of the unemployed calls into
question the carefully maintained divisions between "good" and "bad" poor,
between "excluded" and "unemployed", between unemployed and wage- earners. 

Even if one cannot equate in a mechanical way unemployment and
crime, nobody can ignore today that "urban violence" has its roots in
unemployment, generalized social insecurity and mass poverty. The
"exemplary" convictions of Strasbourg, the threats to reopen
correctional institutions or the suppression of family allowances to
parents of trouble-makers, who allegedly have renounced their
parental duties, are the hidden face of neoliberal employment
policies. When will young unemployed people be obliged to accept
any miserable job as Tony Blair proposes, and will the welfare state
be replaced by the American styled "security state"?

Because it makes us understand that any unemployed person is
potentially condemned to long-term unemployed and that the long-
term unemployed are potentially excluded, that exclusion from
unemployment benefits means to be condemned  to assistance, social
aid, charity, the movement of the unemployed calls into question the
division between "excluded" and "unemployed": when the
unemployed are sent to the social aid office, they are deprived of
their status as unemployed and they are rejected into exclusion.

But above all it makes us understand that any wage-earner may lose their
job at any moment, that the generalized job insecurity (especially of the
young), the organized "social insecurity" of all those who live under the
threat of a "social scheme", turn any wage-earner into a potential
unemployed. Forceful evacuation will not evacuate "the problem". Because
the cause of the unemployed is also the cause of the excluded, casual
workers and wage-earners who work under the same threat. Because a moment
may come, in which the reserve army of the unemployed and casual workers,
which condems to submission all those who have the provisional chance to
be excluded from its ranks, will turn against those who have based their
policy (oh socialism!) on a cynical confidence in the passivity of the
most subdued. 

This text has been approved by the groupe "Raison d"agir".

To express your solidarity:

- copy and sign the text, have it signed by others and send it
indicating your first and last name and your profession by post to
Frederic Lebaron, 2, rue de Malte 75011 Paris

by fax to Frederic Lebaron

by E-mail to

-- Marches europeennes contre le chomage, la precarite et les
exclusions 104, rue des Couronnes     Tel : +33 1 44 62 63 44
F-75020 Paris  France              Fax : +33 1 44 62 63 45
e-mail :      (information en francais, lecturere
seule)     (information in english,
read only)                 (discussion,
read/write, lecture/ecriture) Gestionnaire de la liste: F. Sauterey
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