Care Work In & Beyond the Labor Market

Click here to read all posts in our Care Work series.

Noah Zatz –

ndwa

via ssir

Big ideas are flourishing these days—the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, sectoral bargaining, Universal Basic Income, prison abolition. This makes it all the more noteworthy when major policy areas are relatively quiet. One example is child care, despite Elizabeth Warren having started there in her “I have a plan for that” strategy.

What’s lacking is not merely depth of attention but also breadth of imagination. In particular, child care is being viewed almost entirely through the lens of labor market policy. Policy initiatives such as Warren’s focus first on enabling parents to flourish in paid work through access to affordable, quality care. Secondarily, they strive to ensure that the resulting caregiving jobs are themselves well-paid, protected, and respected. These important commitments especially advance the interests of women workers, particularly working class women of color overrepresented on both sides of this needing care/providing care ledger. The dual emphasis undermines both the family wage system’s gendered breadwinner/caretaker division of labor centered on married, middle-class white women and its incorporation of women of color into paid work, including specifically domestic work for white families, that lay outside the structures of labor citizenship designed for white, male breadwinners.

Nonetheless, focusing on universalizing access to better paid work submerges two other longstanding elements of critical feminist analysis of care work. These are particularly pertinent to LPE conversations about the political-economic centrality of markets. First, feminist accounts of social reproduction have long highlighted the extensive, essential, but systematically devalued or outright ignored work performed outside conventional labor markets in families and communities. This includes especially direct care work and housework or other household production, but also broader forms of civic participation often denoted “volunteering.” Second, attaching economic resources to nonmarket social reproductive labor starts to loosen paid work’s iron grip on household income more generally. That grip creates a legitimated dependency on labor markets that undergirds power relations both between labor and capital and, within families, between market “breadwinners” and those more conventionally labelled “dependents.” Valuing care thus could facilitate both reimagining work and decentering markets.

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The Second Wave of Algorithmic Accountability

Frank Pasquale –

Over the past decade, algorithmic accountability has become an important concern for social scientists, computer scientists, journalists, and lawyers. Exposés have sparked vibrant debates about algorithmic sentencing. Researchers have exposed tech giants showing women ads for lower-paying jobs, discriminating against the aged, deploying deceptive dark patterns to trick consumers into buying things, and manipulating users toward rabbit holes of extremist content. Public-spirited regulators have begun to address algorithmic transparency and online fairness, building on the work of legal scholars who have called for technological due process, platform neutrality, and nondiscrimination principles.

This policy work is just beginning, as experts translate academic research and activist demands into statutes and regulations. Lawmakers are proposing bills requiring basic standards of algorithmic transparency and auditing. We are starting down on a long road toward ensuring that AI-based hiring practices and financial underwriting are not used if they have a disparate impact on historically marginalized communities. And just as this “first wave” of algorithmic accountability research and activism has targeted existing systems, an emerging “second wave” of algorithmic accountability has begun to address more structural concerns. Both waves will be essential to ensure a fairer, and more genuinely emancipatory, political economy of technology.

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When All Social Problems Become Financial Problems

Sarah Quinn –

When it comes to government programs, credit support is often cheaper and less controversial than direct expenditures. Understand this, and you can understand why government officials have an incentive to define all sorts of social problems as financial ones.

Government officials face considerable pressure to promote credit markets. Wall Street firms leverage money, expertise and status to “capture” regulators. It is not only the rich and powerful who make demands on the state for easier access to credit: Farmers in the late 18th century, black activists fighting against redlining in the postwar era, access to credit cards in the 1930s– all have demanded that the governmental help them gain access to credit. When wages are low and welfare state support is stingy, families rely on easy credit to ride out hard times or even meet daily expenses. In the context of neoliberalism, credit access can be a kind of destructive consolation prize for workers with stagnant wages and frayed safety nets, as other scholars have noted.

Demands for easy credit are a crucial part of the story of credit allocation in any political economy, but they do not tell the whole story. That is because lawmakers have their own reasons for turning to credit as tool of statecraft, and those reasons help determine how, when and why government officials move credit and promote financial markets.

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Friday Roundup

The latest in LPE World:

– LPE Blog

Restricting Women’s Autonomy in the Name of “Eugenics”

Mindy Roseman –

aclu

(via ACLU)

The public/private dichotomy—so fundamental to the liberal political and economic order—produces many (if not all) of our lived contradictions, especially our experiences of inequality along the multiple and intersecting lines of race, sex, gender, class, able-bodiedness, and so on. It should come as no surprise that where the private decision making of women is at issue, the privilege of freedom from state and third party interference has been hard-fought and never fully achieved. U.S. Constitutional and state level jurisprudence on abortion is predicated on the women “in consultation with their doctors,” choosing whether to carry their pregnancies to term. This provisional grant of autonomy has provided the logic for a continual legislative claw back of the abortion right: a right to decide but not to realize (Harris v. McCrae); a right to decide but only upon the due burden of state mandated reflection and guidance (Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania); a right to decide but not to elect the safest procedure (Gonzales v. Carhart). Women, this jurisprudence affirms, no matter their race or class, cannot be trusted.

Mistrust in women runs deep in current legislative efforts to wrest their private decision-making autonomy away. It hardly announces itself as such in the bills; rather, it comes to us through an appeal to humane and liberal values that impart to abortion-access restrictions an air of legitimacy. The latest obfuscation—restricting abortion in the name of combating “eugenics”—recently surfaced anew in the 6th Circuit’s decision in Preterm-Cleveland v. Himes, decided two weeks ago. The case concerns H.B. 214, an Ohio law that criminalizes abortions of Down syndrome affected pregnancies. Doctors who know (or have reason to know) that the woman wishes to terminate a pregnancy because of a Down syndrome diagnosis, and perform such an abortion risk a felony conviction, 18 months’ imprisonment, license revocation, and civil penalties. The U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction against its implementation and enforcement, which the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld, 2 to 1.

I will not review the reasoning behind the two-judge majority opinion. Instead, the dissent deserves unpacking, as it may well be echoed in any eventual Supreme Court review. This dissent is particularly noteworthy because of the way its adoption of language with a traditionally emancipatory valence is meant to misdirect. What appear to be individual, private decisions are in fact conditioned by state policy. Much turns on state action. This case highlights how abortion opponents intentionally confuse individual decision-making and state policy, with an aim to legitimate unwarranted interference in the exercise of women’s autonomy. Ohio H.B. 214 shifts our attention away from what the state is and is not doing for pregnant people and for the children they bear, and burden their individual decision making instead.

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The Need for Neodemocracy

William J. Novak and Stephen W. Sawyer –

We live in a neoliberal age. For ideological reasons bound up in the epic struggle against totalitarianisms both left and right, a bold experiment in hyper-liberalism took root in the wake of the Cold War. Allowing the democratic achievements and aspirations of liberal and social democracy to atrophy, intellectuals and policymakers began an audacious celebration of the unmitigated benefits of economic liberty and private power. A new politics and policy consensus emphasized market expansion and economic growth over social welfare and public well-being, personal rights over collective responsibilities, private interests over public goods, and individual aggrandizement over social equality. So much have neoliberal assumptions captured policymaking and public imagination across the political spectrum, that it has become difficult to think beyond its tightly patrolled borders towards a programmatic, philosophically-grounded alternative. Indeed, for many, neoliberalism has grown synonymous with a sacrosanct – natural, neutral, and necessary – 21st century capitalism.

The consequences of this neoliberal turn are now everywhere around us. And substantive assessments of deregulation, privatization, and the return of market and constitutional fundamentalism are quickly moving from mixed to dire. Long gone are bumptious celebrations of the end of history. In retrospect, the end of the Cold War looms larger as a historic missed opportunity. Today, intellectual critics are documenting the rampant socio-economic debris left in the wake of neoliberal consensus: climate change; poverty and economic inequality; corporate concentration; big tech surveillance; election manipulation and voter repression; fake news; the aggrandizement of executive and war powers; the revival of virulent forms of racism, group hate, and xenophobia; the return of populist and authoritarian nationalism; mass incarceration; an opioid epidemic; and the rise of new global oligarchy and kleptocracy.

The egregious failures and transparent limitations of neoliberalism have now generated a host of provocative assessments and blueprints for moving on, beyond, and forward. Talented social theorists like David Harvey, Axel Honneth, and Wendy Brown have skewered the pretensions and exposed the contradictions of neoliberal political economy and mapped some attractive alternatives. At LPE, the manifesto by David Grewal, Amy Kapczynski, and Jed Purdy moves these concerns from the abstract realm of social theory to legal action. And on the ground, grassroots protests and social movements like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Indignados, and the Umbrella Movement urgently and divergently capture widespread popular aspiration for a post-neoliberal future. Even mainstream political candidates battle furiously to present themselves as the most radical antidote to the neoliberal status quo.

Yet to date, the alternatives to neoliberalism struggle for recognition amid a cacophony of options, including centrist calls to return to Cold War liberalism, technocratic revivals of Third Way social democracy, and defanged, post-totalitarian versions of “socialism light.” Advocates for change seem not yet to have a name or concept or program for what they are striving for after the end of neoliberalism.

We propose a deceptively simple solution — a mere starting point in a longer and larger conversation about a future beyond neoliberalism. We start simply enough by introducing or coining a new word – or at least a new usage.

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Friday Roundup

Here are some things we’re reading:

  • Last week on the blog, we continued our series on labor and the Constitution.
  • This week, we featured highlights from LPE student organizing.
  • These days in Rawls: a review in the New Republic of Katrina Forrester’s book In the Shadow of Justice by Jedediah Purdy, and a review in Commonweal on theology and liberalism by Samuel Moyn.
  • In a review for the Nation, Kate Aronoff skewers the liberal tendency to obfuscate central planning and corporate power in favor of moralizing and self-flagellation.

-LPE Blog

 

Medicare for All: How to Reduce Inequality in the Long-Term Care Market

Medicare for All: How to Reduce Inequality in the Long-Term Care Market

This post is part of our symposium on Medicare for All. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Ruqaiijah Yearby – 

Medicare for All has the potential to address gaps in access to quality long-term care services for the elderly by mitigating some of the inequities in the market for long-term care. It could do this by increasing reimbursement rates for long-term care, fostering competition between long-term care providers, and improving federal enforcement of non-discrimination requirements.

In the long-term care services market, the issue is not private insurance versus single payer because the government already finances most long-term care services through Medicare and Medicaid (Medicaid is the primary payer for long-term services and supports ranging from institutional care to community-based services). Instead, the issue is who will provide the care: institutions or home- and community-based providers.

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The Market Does Not Bind Us

NB: This post is part of a debate on the Loan Shark Prevention Act, a bill that would create a federal usury cap. Anne Fleming’s argument against the bill is here.

Emma Caterine–

The central fallacy of the arguments against the Loan Shark Prevention Act, including Professor Fleming’s, is the limitation of regulation to merely attempting to steer the market. I argue here the purpose of regulation should instead be to carry out a democratic vision of how our society, including the economy, functions. The Loan Shark Prevention Act is an ideal start to pushing back against the decades of economic control by a select, mostly white and male, few.

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A New Sex Positivity Dichotomy

A New Sex Positivity Dichotomy

This post is part of our symposium on the political economy of sex work. Read the rest of the symposium here.

 suprihmbé a.k.a. thotscholar – 

The constant assertion that sex work was “just like any other job,” that it was experientially rewarding, richly enumerating, or spiritually significant, or that sex workers “weren’t all homeless junkies working the streets” naturally alienated those who hated their work, struggled to make ends meet, used drugs, or were homeless. A dominating narrative of empowerment also contributes to a growing stigma against sex workers whose experience isn’t strictly empowering.

— From the Introduction to $PREAD: The Best of the Magazine That Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution

I was asked to address whether and how feminist and queer movements at times create a false distinction between the “agency/empowerment” of sex work and the “oppression/coercion” of sex trafficking. I am a poor Black proheaux womanist creative and erotic laborer. These locations and more are important in my analysis, so I’ll begin my answer with my own story.

I started stripping at eighteen. I knew I was going to strip long before I did it. I had become enamored with Black feminist “hoe is life” empowerment rhetoric just before college. I skipped a grade and landed at a college in southern Indiana at age 17, a vocal major at the time. “Hoe is life” is the Black woman’s answer to the slut-chic culture that swept mainstream hegemonic feminism during the second and/or third wave— our pro-hoe, full of wanna-be (or actual) sugar babies and newly minted financial dommes, and “marry up” (into wealth and usually out of blackness) feminists. As a bisexual woman who had been exploring her sexuality throughout childhood, with girls first and boys later, I was intrigued by this idea that I felt fit my omnisexual proclivities. I was eager to dabble in promiscuity and discover erotic pleasure, and my entrance into the idea of erotic labor was part of that.

The other part: money. The first time I dipped my toes into erotic labor, it was for pocket money. Young men asked and offered. They were in my age group, so I didn’t feel exploited, and I wasn’t. I was in college, and for many young Black women, college is where we find ourselves. The need seems urgent — many of us grew up in church or similarly constrained by our families. Black and brown women of certain cultures are considered naturally promiscuous in the wider dominant white culture. The way we dress, how quickly we develop, all of it is scrutinized. I was called everything from a dyke to a whore growing up as adults rushed to categorize my known experiences: too (physically) close to this or that girl, too flirtatious with such and such boy, the way I licked an ice cream. Everything I did seemed to drip with eroticism, even when I wasn’t aware. I thought, there must be power there.

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