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Another view of the state… February 16, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This in the Guardian is a strong cohesive defence of some of those aspects of the state that we hold important. From Peter Fleming who is Professor of Business and Society at City, University of London, he argues in a piece on how the whittling away of the very notion of retirement in old age is part of a broader attack on rights that have been hard won across decades and more…

Sadly, this probably won’t be your future … unless you’re independently wealthy. What can only be described as the “battle over work” in the neoliberal era in relation to pay and conditions has just opened another front. Retirement. And things are beginning to get nasty.
We’re now told that the real question is no longer when we will retire but if we will retire, with the prospect of working until you drop likely to become the norm. Due to an ageing population, longer life expectancy and a state pension scheme that can’t keep up, retirement might soon be a thing of the past. According to David Blake, director of the Pensions Institute at Cass Business School, “the danger now is we will have a generation who really can’t afford to retire”.

And he notes that once retirement was regarded as the ‘jewel in the crown of any civilised society’. Yet now:

Not any more. Now we have entered the age of austerity, one that we’re told might never end. As a result, there’ll be no government help in your dotage. Nor will your employer’s pension plan provide enough to make ends meet. If this heartless post-crash variant of neoliberal capitalism could be summed up in one message, it would be this: you are on your own.
The important thing to remember, however, is that none of this is as “inevitable” as the politicians would have us think. Many societies have an ageing population. But not all of them are willing to shove a frail 75-year-old back into a cut-throat service economy. That’s a specialism of societies that have embraced the utter madness of neoclassical economics, such as the UK and the US.

And this is a central point:

We can trace the untimely demise of retirement to a number of assumptions about how society ought to be organised. At no other time since its inception has the welfare state been so hated by the governing elite. Social care. Unemployment assistance. Health. Local councils and libraries. Municipal parks. Anything relating to what used to be called “the public good” is attacked at the roots. Austerity redefines these things as fiscal liabilities or deficits rather than shared investments in common decency. It was only a matter of time before pensions too were put on the chopping block.

I like too the way he positions these attacks in the fluffy language of the contemporary period:

Now the free-market thinktank hacks decide to speak up. Don’t many people over 65 actually love working? Isn’t the whole idea of retirement totally ageist? Sure, if people want to work past retirement age, that’s great. The trouble is that many soon won’t have any choice in the matter. Economic desperation will decide for them. We already see evidence of this and it’s set to get worse. While some undoubtedly enjoy working well into their later years, research shows that a secure retirement is very good for you. A German study, for example, found that retirees tend to exercise more, quit smoking and get better sleep compared to those who continue to work. As a result, hospital visits drop.

And also I like the way he argues that solidarity in one area necessitates solidarity in another – the use of resentment, intergenerational resentment, is a weaponisation of unfortunate but far from insoluble divisions amongst workers.

What we really need is an intergenerational alliance to be forged around the issue. Any attempt to protect the right to retire (with a pension) will also have to address the dire developments in the employment sector that are seriously disadvantaging younger people and now creeping into jobs held by 40-somethings too.

Some actually interesting points in comments – not least that the attempt to pitch intergenerational conflict at the heart of this is misplaced because it affects different generations – generation x and millennials are in much the same boat in relation to pension provision. Nor is it correct to see pensioners as an homogenous group either. Those subsisting on the state pension and those who have occupational pensions (whether public or private) are different again and those who have particularly good occupational pensions different once more.

Indeed solidarity must be built within and between all these groups.

But the basic point that none of this is accident or chance but the result of an ideological attack on the very idea of the state as a means of providing services is crucial.


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