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How the divorce between power and politics leads to increased insecurity

People feel more insecure because politics and power have been disconnected. Multinational corporations make decisions within transnational market conditions that can just marginally be controlled. This feeling of insecurity undoubtedly goes with the fear of losing jobs and material welfare; legitimate fears. Zygmunt Bauman describes them:

Power is the ability to act, Bauman argues. Politics is the ability to decide what will happen. Power and politics have been torn apart. Where politics used to have power to make thinks happen, they can now only make plans but have limited power for their execution.

So where has the power gone? From a global perspective, it’s inequality that drives these fearful labour market changes; if no place would be much poorer than the other, there wouldn’t be a reason for jobs to be moved abroad. From this perspective, these changes also have positive effects; they stimulate the development of the so-called low wage countries.

So do all jobs disappear? Obviously not. Many people from poorer countries choose to move towards richer places to do even the most insignificant – but paying – jobs. Also, this is an effect of inequality. The outcome is often positive: those areas where people migrate to tend to develop over time. Then the area shifts towards the poorer areas so making the ‘labour-frontier’ itself migrate.[1]

Skeldon (1997) argues that migration is an integral part of development. For me and you, individuals and families, it doesn’t help much to know that other people can escape poverty because your job is being outsourced. You feel powerless and just so – because you are. Even your government is powerless. Even the UN is powerless. But are you really? In chapter 5 you’ll find some ideas on dealing with these ugly side-effects of globalization.

  1. [1]See Skeldon, R. 1997, Migration and Development: A Global Interpretation, London, Longman.