Saturday, September 7, 2019

439. Resisting liquidity?

In this blog, my attitude to change has been positive, overall, for the realisation of potential and perhaps the creation of new potential, and for the joy of action and construction. But of course, change can be negative, disastrous even.

Zygmunt Bauman[i] claimed that people are suffering from present ‘liquid times’, with increasingly pervasive and fast change, in technology, economies, society, and global politics, and seek ways to resist it.

I agree with Bauman in noting a number of fears and insecurities that people, some more than others, increasingly have been experiencing. There are specific reasons or that.

There is political uncertainty, in threats to democracy, the re-emergence of authoritarian regimes, and the rise of populism.   

Under neoliberal market ideology, social security has declined, health care and other public services have been privatised or brought under market mechanisms, and the scope, funding of care have decreased. I don’t deny the necessity of this in view of a larger share of the aged in the population, and technological progress that is offering ever new methods of diagnostics and therapy, but it all does contribute to feelings of insecurity.

There is economic insecurity in shifting markets, in globalisation, and resulting losses of employment. Labour conditions have worsened, with declining security and stability of employment, and wages have not risen anywhere near the rise of executive ‘compensation’.

Globalisation has destroyed the roots and continuity of local communities, thus robbing especially the lower educated, less mobile workers of the roots of social identity, in solidarity and mutual support. Under the force of market ideology, competition has been replacing solidarity.

To quote Bauman: ‘whereas in the past there was a public effort at socially produced solutions to individual problems, now people need to seek individual solutions to socially produced problems … all this does produce a “mood of precariousness”’[ii]   

As Bauman notes, this brings people into a ‘loss frame’. Social psychology has shown that under threat of loss people engage in more extreme conduct to resist the loss than when they are in a gain frame, expecting improvement. 

However, I do not think there is an overall, generic resistance to change in general. People go to considerable trouble and expense to generate new experiences, in more or less adventurous holidays, visiting exotic scenery, and hazardous sports. They hop from job to job to escape from stagnation in familiar routines and environments. People seek entrepreneurship, accepting its uncertainty. to try and realise original ideas they have.

HeHdeHere, I return to the ancient Greek notion of ‘thymos’ that I discussed before: the urge to manifest oneself and accept, even relish, the stress and risk involved. That Nietzschean drive is still alive and kicking.

The difference, of course, is that this change is voluntary, self-chosen, whereas the worsening of social conditions and labour is imposed, not voluntary.

So, I propose that it is not a fear of change in general that is at play, but more specific fears of some forms of change affecting political and economic conditions that affect social security, solidarity and prosperity.

[i] Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid times, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007.
[ii] Bauman, p. 14, 15.

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