lunedì , 15 Luglio 2024

Just austerity? Europe without principles and the politicization of poverty

Solo austerity?In recent years the word poverty has re-entered European political jargon. The main doorway for this has been statistical data. This however does nothing more than reduce the quota of population that earns under a certain level of wage to a merely technical question. The construction of new indicators and new ways of studying and classifying impoverished subjects has changed the scientific approach to the problems of the “social”. From the point of view if the policies of European governments talking about poverty has meant taking note the change of governmental functions in the times of the crisis. In this sense, the watchword of the struggle against poverty institutionalizes the impossibility of considering the social question as a political question and its translation inside a technical governing of the sciences. The end of labour as access to rights and the shift of the barycenter of public policies on employability are two other manifestations of the same structural dynamic that uses technical-humanitarian criteria to respond to the problem called poverty and to that which in these years we have called precarisation of labour. This process was followed by the growing politicization of poverty in movement discourses. Even the analyses that followed the demonstration of October 19th, a march that for its size and composition surprised even those who most supported it, demonstrate this tendency to place primary of impoverished subjects needs at the centre, like housing and income. However, we ask: if, from the point of view of European politics, poverty is the technical name for the de-politicization of labour, what does it mean to politicize poverty? The rediscovery of poverty as a political issue is, first, a symptom of the crisis and the effect of novelty that it produces. In appearance, poverty is a novelty in expansion on the European scene, where, behind the economic data on GDP and the austerity policies imposed by the Troika, it seems that everything is stopped.

If we consider in its entirety the new expressions of European governance and its close connection with the global and transnational dimension of valorisation, however, we can observe the effect of refraction produced by the simultaneous presence of a Europe of austerity and of the structuring of a new form of government of political and economic processes. There is not only, in fact, the Europe of balanced budgets and austerity. There is also a Europe that does not manifest itself immediately in macroeconomic statistics, but informs the speeches and the policies promoted by the Commission, drawing economic and discursive geographies that, until now, have been eluded by political movements. This Europe manages and distributes significant resources, derived from quotas of general taxation of individual Member States, identifies priorities and produces narratives about the future directing programs for research and innovation. Among the formulas that compete to define it, that maybe someone would call Governmental, we find expressions like “regional dimension” and “intelligent specialization”, and words like “corridors”. Far from indicating an operational narrowing, the regional dimension indicates the eclipsing, on the part of the Community organs, of the continental and national dimension, drawing economic and productive areas which are often cross-border and also involve countries and regions neighboring the European Union. Intelligent specialisation indicates the recognition of the impossibility of a global competition played exclusively on the cost of labor and the need to overcome the aggregated macroeconomic indicators, focusing on specific productive sectors able to be competitive by virtue of high levels of specialization. At the same time the formation of industrial networks able to work together to meet common market sectors is suggested. It is a further spatial grid that overlays, and sometimes intersects, the national boundaries of the Member States. The corridors are probably the highest expression of an organizational spatial structure in the making of this Europe, which draws the main roads and traffic along the axes and nodes which connect major cities, regions, production sites and ports. Even the use of areas already in use in some contexts and countries of Eastern Europe and ‘third party’ countries in the Euro -Mediterranean area, is part of this logistical reconfiguration of Europe that, overall, also redefines the prerogatives and functions of the Member States: not in the direction of their further disintegration, but of their organized globalization within the European framework.

Thinking on a global scale, there is the risk of making a mistake that has been made elsewhere, namely of contrasting poverty and wage struggle, as if the dynamics of impoverishment, individualization and “social” expropriation (as the erosion of the welfare state may also be defined) that is crossing the European and global space did not impact on the wage ratio, as well as impacting heavily on its ability to bargain and on  the spaces of “viability” which access to such a ‘relationship’ has, until now guaranteed. The struggle over wages, put back in motion by these transformations, appears completely within the capital relationship, being identified with its defined form, stable and legal. It is also assimilated to the political practice of the Fordist worker, an eclipsed and defeated subject, who even when is still present it, is intended or to be in that form of relationship or be completely overwhelmed. This leads us to see the contrary in the economy of poverty and the needs with the character of surplus and, at times, of otherness with respect to the capital relationship, and to read the contemporary transformations of the forms of accumulation and government in terms of a capture of that surplus. Following this line of reasoning, the organization of the poor and their claim to tear away pieces of satisfaction of their basic needs takes the form of a real movement to overthrow the dynamics imposed by global capitalism today, and even when present in mass and represents a novelty, the worker is considered a subject without relevance. The common name of policies of impoverishment would therefore be “austerity”, that of the policy of liberation “income”. Wage and income thus return to indicate totally different areas of regulation and possibly bargaining, relating to different subjects and are thus, so to speak, disjoined, disconnected.

The theme of the great works, which has expressed itself in composite and organized forms in recent years, has been only partially developed at the height of the global transformations in which they are located. Environmental issues and the priorities for public spending, in fact, although having made important mobilizations possible, taken alone do not explain and do not offer general perspectives of struggle. On the inclined plane of the Europe of growth, for example, the environmental issue can easily be neutralized, becoming a device able to impose new market equilibrium (e.g., favoring the so-called green economy ). The topic of spending priorities, which indicates as “waste” spending on the infrastructures against which there is struggle and proposes other outlets for the same amounts, in favor of social spending such as housing, in turn unwittingly accepting the mantra of budget balances. In this way one risks likely to be mirrored and functional to the same discourse they wish to criticize. Little has been comprehended about the relationship between great works, the formation of a different supranational geography and the effects on the regulation of the labour of these processes.

The three dimensions mentioned above shall comport, in fact, important consequences with regard to resource flows and financial instruments such as, for example, various forms of access to credit, formation of technical tools of governance, exchange and consultation, and the displacement and the definition of non-negligible shares of labour relations. They must be considered together with the general tendency to make employability and the intermittent relationship with labour and the individual struggle to conquer it by investing in one’s own “human capital” as a surrogate for employment. At the same time, they articulate policies for the management of labor and its mobility ranging from high formation to super-specialization training, to invest in the regulation of migration through a border regime that is at the same time violent and flexible, to meet the specific needs of certain productive sites. The proposition of outdated patterns, even in the form of criticism and dialogue with the institutions, such as those that opposed a Europe of income to that of austerity, may lose sight of the possibilities that open up and struggles that are already present within this new political economy of exploitation. The analysis and critique of the effects of monetary and fiscal policies at the European level should instead be considered while keeping the background this mobile grid, which is taking a precise process dimension at least the medium term. The processes we are talking about are happening now and will be decisive in the years leading up to 2020, an almost messianic date which should represent the dawn of the new Europe. The struggles within this global European logistics will determine the points of attack on poverty and wage labour, more than any constitution and even more than any charter of principles.

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