|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2018-04-01 09:45:00
The Deconstruction of the Welfare State
I'm starting to suspect the reason the welfare state has to be dismantled, according to popular right-wing thought, is not because it isn't working well enough, but rather because it is working entirely too well for the comfort of the oligarchs, kyriarchs, and plutocrats.
It all comes down to Maslow's theory about the psychological hierarchy of needs. When people aren't required to spend all their time catering to the physiological requirements of the body (food, water, shelter from the weather), they start looking for safety and security (personal, financial, health-related, and disaster-related). Once they have the safety they need, they start looking to find indications of love and belonging (friends, family, intimate relationships). Once they have the necessary structures to indicate they are loved and belong somewhere, they start looking for respect, both from themselves and from others (this is the point where moral actions and doing right become genuinely important), and once we respect ourselves, are capable of genuinely respecting others, and are respected by others in our turn, we start seeking self-actualisation and self-transcendence (becoming the best we can be, and finding a higher purpose or higher ideal than our individual self to serve).
While the hierarchy of needs isn't perfect - it tends to suffer from a lot of overlapping categories and themes (plus there are any number of things which fall into more than one category - food, for example, can serve as a marker of belonging and connection as well as fulfilling a physiological requirement) - it serves to illustrate an overall point here. Essentially, one of the things the welfare state specialises in is meeting the lower two categories of needs: the purely physiological, and those regarding safety and security. The government, through various social security payments and policies such as public health care, and working toward full employment, guarantees physical needs can be met by the vast majority of people, and securing those needs will always be possible (which is the crux of what the safety needs are about - am I going to be able to meet my physiological needs in the long-term?). This means people have more time, effort and energy to put into working on the next two levels of the hierarchy - which are primarily about the way we interact with people, and the type of society we live in; plus, it means more people who would otherwise have not reached the stage of looking beyond their immediate needs are able to start looking at goals which actualise and transcend their selves.
Or in other words, people start questioning why things were the way they are, and start critiquing the morality and practicality of the social order. This, if you're someone who is at the top of the existing order, and relies on being at the top of the existing order to meet your own hierarchy of needs, is a Bad Thing, because critique can lead to people deciding the system needs to be changed... which threatens the positions of those at the top of the existing order.
It's hardly surprising, therefore, that a lot of the changes which have taken place since the various social convulsions of the sixties and seventies are squarely aimed at ensuring those people who aren't at the top of the social order will have trouble meeting their needs for physical shelter and sustenance, and their need for long-term security of these. Welfare systems are being cut back, threatening the ability of those who aren't wholly enmeshed in the middle ranks of the system to obtain things like food and shelter. Employment security has been largely eradicated (except for high-level managerial positions, oddly enough) in favour of short-term contracts (which means people don't have the necessary long-term security of employment tenure to put in place the planning for other forms of security). An entire generation is being threatened with the loss of the age pension here in Australia (everyone who's younger than the majority of the current cohort of politicians, for example) in favour of superannuation, which means long-term income security for a lot of Australians has been severely threatened (superannuation works best if you have long-term continuity of employment - ie a permanent full-time position - and long-term security of salary expectations. The current system doesn't cope well with people who are in periodic, short-term employment, and who spend more than about two weeks between each bout of employment; your super tends to erode very quickly if you're not getting contributions made on a regular basis, and it really doesn't cope well if you have to shuffle your super from fund to fund). The diversion of the housing market from "provision of shelter to everyone" to "provision of income security to the well-off" has meant obtaining shelter is harder to do, and requires greater income security, greater security of employment and so on - and the diversion of the majority of the state housing funds into "keystart" loans for people in low income employment (rather than housing stock for people on welfare) means those on welfare are increasingly forced to deal with an inflexible and expensive private rental market.
Long term financial insecurity means difficulties obtaining both food and shelter - at which point meeting those needs becomes paramount, and self-actualising or self-transcending goes by the wayside. Even self-respect goes by the wayside if you're desperate enough; hence the re-appearance of beggars on the streets.
Meanwhile, the plight of those who aren't comfortably enmeshed in the middle ranks of the system is used as a threat and a goad against those who are - breaking their sense of security and safety. Fear of the unruly poor is easily instilled - setting guards all over the place is a good way to go about it (it works even if the guards aren't actually required - the aim isn't necessarily to be guarding per se, but rather to imply that there's a threat from which things need to be guarded, after all).
Effectively, our society has been slowly re-designed since the sixties to remove the security and safety people were relying on at the lower levels of society, in order to supplement what security and safety they could craft themselves. And this has been done deliberately, in order to reduce the ability of people to self-actualise, in order to reduce the ability of people to self-transcend, and in order to reduce the ability of people to make moral arguments critiquing the distribution of resources within the capitalist state. The world is being re-designed in the image of the sociopaths who are increasingly taking control of the business and political sectors, and their design doesn't leave much room for anyone who has functional empathy, or even functional morality.
Now, a lot of people are going to look at the above paragraph, and dismiss it as the ravings of a conspiracy theorist. But the point is you don't need a conspiracy to create this effect. All you need is a bunch of people who have sufficient power taking actions to protect their power base, independent of each other. It would be a lot more reassuring, in a way, if there were a conspiracy to point at. A conspiracy would imply there's a greater force opposing their actions - that they had to organise in order to create these sorts of changes. That there was, in fact, a Master Plan or blueprint they were acting to. Instead, what we have are the automatic reactions of a bunch of scared monkeys.
Which is why we're looking at a many-pronged attack - because each and every one of these scared monkeys at the top of things hit back in the way they were most comfortable with. It's an attack which takes the form of government action, of cultural control and creation, of myth-making, of the manufacturing of consent, of corporate policy, of structural design, of institutional design, and so on. The attack on the less-privileged many by the highly privileged few is something which is practically built into the fabric of our lives, and it's very hard, at times, to stop and realise that yes, this is what's happening. It's woven up in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. It's woven into the choices we take - and into the range of choices we do and don't have available.
This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/115769.h