P and O Ferries recently sacked 800 UK workers by video conference call. Workers were literally told in a video call from the boss of P and O, lasting less than 5 minutes and with no prior warning, that their employment was being terminated with immediate effect.
You can watch the boss of P and O sacking the 800 workers in the video below (note is old white maleness, typical profile!)
The 800 UK workers, all having been paid minimum wage have been replaced with primarily overseas workers from countries such as India, allegedly being paid as little as £1.80 an hour, employed via a third party, meaning they are agency workers rather than being employed directly by P and O.
Some of the sacked workers had been with the company for several years, a few for over a decade, suddenly made unemployed, and the replacement agency workers were shipped in by bus on the same day, some of them having been put up in a hotel the night before.
Relevance to A-level Sociology
This is a sad example of how global companies such as DP WORLD (The parent company of P and O) can simply sack more expensive workers and hire cheaper workers from other countries when their profits take a hit, as has been the case since the Covid Pandemic led to a drastic decrease in revenues for travel companies.
This kind of action is probably easier for ferry companies who can choose to register (‘flag’) their boats in a number of countries, and thus effectively pick the legislation which they want their employment laws to fall under.
Clearly P and Os legal advisors had informed the company that they could sack these British workers with immediate effect, even though British Labour laws they need to consult with Unions BEFORE sacking so many workers, which they hadn’t done.
This event is a sad reminder of Zygmunt Bauman’s quote that ‘when the rich pursue their goals, the poor pay the price’ – in this case the company is trying to save money to maintain its profitability and so it sacks more highly paid workers in the UK (although ferry employees aren’t particularly highly paid) and then employs poorer people to do exactly the same jobs, meanwhile the British tax payer is left to foot the bill of these newly unemployed people.
I doubt very much if the newly employed Ferry workers will have employment conditions anywhere near as good as the sacked British workers.
This seems to suggest that Marxism is still relevant today, offering broad support for the Marxist view of globalisation – that global companies can operate between countries, seeking to take advantage of those with the slackest labour laws, and in this case it’s clearly Britain with it’s relatively high standards of protection for workers that has lost out!
There are currently around a million people doing Apprenticeships in England and Wales, and about one in seven of the current workforce is either doing one or has done one as part of their training, but how effective are apprenticeships today?
If it is possible to generalised, what are the strengths and limitations of modern apprenticeships?
Strengths of Apprenticeships
This 2021 government report on apprenticeships points to the fact that standards of apprenticeships have risen in recent years, with a new minimum length of training being one year, the increasing number of advanced apprenticeships, and more rigorous monitoring.
The public sector is also now heavily involved with apprenticeship training and there is a commitment to ensuring apprenticeships are supporting diversity and social mobility.
Being able to meet increasing demand in a cost effective way. Apprentices can help to boos productivity.
Increasing diversity of skills and challenging set ways of thinking – apprentices with new skills and fresh ways of looking at things can establish new innovative ways of working and challenge the status quo in a company, keeping it dynamic.
Being able to mould future leaders of a company – some employers like taking on young apprentices especially as they can train them appropriately over a series of months and years to go into management positions.
For many employers taking on new apprentices is going to for a key strategy of rebuilding after the pandemic. Apprenticeships are well suited to helping both businesses and individuals recruit and retrain after the disruption caused due the government imposed restrictions on work during the Pandemic.
Limitations of Apprenticeships
Some recent research by the London School of Economics suggests that apprenticeships are stalling –– the increasing of the minimum training time to one year is possibly linked to this, interestingly, the introduction of the Levy on employers in 2017 doesn’t seem to be correlated.
There has also been a shift towards apprenticeships being directed more towards the over 25s and away from the more disadvantaged, as the number of higher apprenticeships has increased compared to intermediate.
The report also notes that not all of the available funding (from the Levy) is used.
Some apprenticeships were also disproportionately affected by the government’s chosen response to the recent Pandemic – most notably those related to travel and hospitality, although that’s not a criticism of apprenticeships themselves as such, just something to be aware of! (some apprenticeships can’t work effectively when there’s a government imposed lockdown going on!
T Levels are vocational A-levels for 16-19 year olds focussed on general career areas. They run over two years and are mainly taught in colleges and including 45 days on the job training.
They have been developed in collaboration with businesses and are designed to give students the knowledge and skills they need for work or further study. One T-level qualification is equivalent in UCAS points to three A-levels.
The introduction of T-Levels represent a significant effort by the UK government to improve both the standard and status of Vocational Education In England and Wales.
There are several T-Levels currently available, with more to be released for first teaching in September 2022 and they are very broad in scope, with qualifications being offered in such areas as:
agriculture, land management and production
building services engineering for construction
craft and design
education and childcare (now available)
hair, beauty and aesthetics
management and administration
media, broadcast and production
A full list of T Level Qualifications, 2021
T Levels are designed to give students a third option of study after GCSE, alongside Apprenticeships and A-levels, in fact they seem designed to fit mid way between the two, being more academic than apprenticeships (more classroom based learning) and more hands-on than A-levels.
T Levels seem to be a good compromise between purely academic A-levels and Apprenticeships which are much more on the job and much less academic.
The fact that businesses have had a say in designing the specifications means students should leave college at 18 better prepared for work, which could be good for the economy.
The ones I’ve looked at seem to have rigorous specifications and assessment, which should give these new vocational qualifications status.
They offer students more flexibility than either and apprenticeship or pure A-levels when they finish – either to work or to university.
The fact that there are components common to several T Levels means it’s easier for colleges to deliver them.
Personally I’m more inclined to see T-Levels as a net positive, but there are some potential problems…
T-Levels: Potential Problems
These are asking students to specialise from a very young age, at the age of 16, and once they’re a few months in they are pretty much ‘locked into’ that path.
There might be something of a shortage of employers willing to provide training places for 45 days, or three months.
There could be a shortage of teachers in colleges capable of delivering some of the subject specific knowledge. For example, one of the T-levels has modules in ‘data science’ – most data scientists are working in industry, they aren’t going to take a 50% pay cut to go teach in a college.
Many industries move very quickly. It could be challenging keeping teachers in college updated with the relevant knowledge and training to deliver appropriate content in some of these career areas.
Some of them probably won’t be very popular – Human Resources in particular springs to mind!
This is a useful update for students studying the compulsory module in Education, usually taught in the first year of A-level Sociology.
Voices of Guinness: An Oral History of the Royal Park Brewery (202) is a recent academic work by Tim Strangleman which explores the experience of work in one Guinness Factory from the 1940s to the early 2000s.
The research took place over several years and consists of oral histories (presumably based on in-depth structured, or even unstructured interviews) with people who used to work in the factory and the use of a range of secondary documents such as photos, pictures and the Guinness factory magazine.
Strangleman puts together a kind of collage of life histories to present various stories about how workers made sense of going to work: what work meant to them and how they coped with its challenges.
This is a useful example of ‘work in modernity’ – Strangleman describes how the Guinness company established a kind of ‘industrial citizenship’ – their aim was to build workers who were fully rounded humans who had a sense of ownership over their work, a concept which many seem very alien now with ‘zero hours contracts’.
The workers for the most part in the 1940s – 1970s at least bought into this – they felt at home in the workplace and because of this, they felt able to criticize the management, a situation which may have been uncomfortable for them, but helped them to keep the workers happy enough.
In the 40s-60s – leisure was broadly focused around the factory and with work colleagues – there were several social clubs such as sports clubs, even theatre clubs, but this started to change in the 1960s when rising incomes led to more privatised forms of leisure.
The workers in late modernity also expected to be employed for life, which is one of the most notable changes to date – most students today don’t want a job for life, and you see the idea of ‘temporary employment’ built into the modern day site of the factory – NB the Guinness Factory is now closed, it has been replaced with ‘Logistics’ wharehouses, the kind of temporary structures which stand in contrast with the more permanent nature of work in modernity.
This is an excellent study to show what work used to be like in Modernity, and as Strangleman says, it reminds us what we have lost in Postmodernity.
It’s also interesting to contrast how the solidness of the factory then ties in with the stable idea of ‘jobs for life’ whereas now people no longer expect or even want jobs for life, we see more temporary buildings forming the basis for working class jobs, most obviously the prefab Amazon warehouses.
McDonald’s is one of Britain’s biggest employers, employing 115 000 workers in over 1300 stores. It is also one of the biggest users of zero hours contracts.
However, following a series of protests over these contracts, the company has recently offered all its workers the choice of staying on ‘zero hours contracts’ or moving onto a fixed contract, with varying hours in length on offer (from 8 to 35 hours a week in line with the average hours they worked). (News article here.)
Based on an initial trial of 23 stores, McDonalds reported that 80% of the workers opted to remain on zero hours contracts, rather than shift to the guaranteed hours contracts.
Personally, I’m suspicious about this. It just doesn’t sound right that 80% of employees would choose to stay precariously employed.
Could it be that the offer of fixed-hours contracts weren’t that appealing – maybe they came with a total lack of flexibility, with workers only being allowed flexibility on zero hours contracts. Maybe the contracts offered some employees the kind of hours that they could not work – early mornings for those with children, for example. Again, a non-starter.
Nearly 60% saw flexibility as an important aspect of their job
50% of employees would rather work longer days 4 days a week and get a longer weekend.
(Based on a sample of 4000 people, 1000 of whom were McDonald’s employees.)
Or it could be that many of these workers were only getting an average of 16 hours a week or less, which is not enough hours for them, so having a guaranteed contract of 4, 8, or 16 hours, with the possibility of no additional hours, was not a viable option.
Of course, McDonalds are now bragging about the fact that they offer their workers the choice of guaranteed hours, or zero-hours contracts, but we don’t know is how viable those guaranteed hours contracts are for the workers offered them.
Personally, I’m suspicious. It’s probable that those fixed hours contracts had a combination of insufficient hours, or the wrong kind of fixed hours, and thus the workers offered them had no realistic choice at all!
Another thing McD’s may have done is deliberately select those stores with high numbers of people who want zero hours – those with a lot of further or higher education students working in them, for example, thus skewing the stats. (That’s what I would have advised them to do, if I was evil enough to work in the business of manipulative market research.)
In any case, this is a great example of some research that probably isn’t value free, and also a great example of biased media reporting.
While some progress has been made to breaking down near total male control and dominance of our top companies, the move towards greater gender equality at the top end of the economy is slowing, and today almost a 100 out of the top FTSE 250 companies still have only 1 woman on the board.
It would seam that for the leaders of our most powerful companies, promoting women is still a bit of a pain in the male ass, at least according to the recent government backed Hampton-Alexander Review of the attitudes of the Chairs and CEOs of Britain’s 350 FTSE 350 companies…
Some of the worst reasons for not appointing more women to the boards of the top companies included:
‘There aren’t that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board – the issues covered are extremely complex’
‘Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board’
‘Shareholders just aren’t interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?’
‘My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board’
‘I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment’
NB – these are my own rankings, I’ve gone with order because of the following logic:
Based on the assumption that women are less capable of dealing with complexity than men.
Based on stereotype of the ‘delicate female’.
Based on the ‘denial of responsibility’ – ‘we’re not appointing because other people don’t want it’.
Denial of responsibility again.
We shouldn’t appoint women because there aren’t any women already. You might actually want to rank this first, because it also suggests that ‘women can’t handle unpleasant environments’.
Trades Unions membership is in decline in the UK, but why is this, and what is the social significance of this seemingly depressing social trend?
The Trades Unions Congress celebrated its 150th anniversary recently, but it seems there is little to celebrate: Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary has admitted that the union movement needs to ‘change or die’ in the context of declining membership and action.
Membership levels among the under 30s fell to 15.7% last yea, down from 20.1% in 2001, and industrial action is also declining: last year there wre only 79 stoppages, the lowest figure since records began.
According to Zoe Williams in the Guardian, the reason for the declining membership among the young is because they are increasingly employed in low-wage sectors where unions are not recognised: and when people are on zero-hours contracts, working in the gig-economy, or trying to get on the first step of the career ladder by doing an unpaid internship, it is difficult to find the support, time or energy to get organised.
As a result, Kenan Malik, writing in the observer, has suggested that unions are increasingly becoming clubs for professionals – as people with degrees are twice as likely to be part of a union than those who have no qualifications.
However, there are also deeper reasons for the decline in industrial action including the following: there are new laws restricting trade union power; technological advances which facilitate more home-working and flexible working hours mean that day strikes and picket lines less effective.
It might also be that working conditions have generally improved: last decade saw the introduction of the minimum wage and then the national living wage, and there have been new laws to tackle discrimination and improved health and safety legislation.
It could just be that unions in general and strikes in particular have had their day
Relevance to A-level sociology
Probably the most obvious application is that this is one of the dimensions in the shift towards post-modernity – maybe unions, with their mass membership and place-based day-strikes were more relevant to the modernist era, while in a postmodern age of flexibalised working they are just not the appropriate vehicle to effectively improve the working conditions of the precariat?
It also serves as a reminder of the class and age divide around unions – generally older more educated people are in them (the established and technical middle class?) while the younger and less educated are not (the precariat especially)
A brief summary of Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity, chapter 4: Work.
Bauman begins by citing, among others, Henry Ford as an example of someone who epitomized Modernity’s attitude towards work in relation to time. Work, done in the present, was valuable because it was driving history forwards. Those in power had such a belief in their hold over the present that they could look forward with confidence, feeling they could plan the future, control it. Progress, says Bauman, is a declaration that history is not relevant.
Progress stands not for any quality of history, but of a self-confidence in the present. Faith in progress stems from two things – the belief that time is on our side, and that we are the ones who make things happen. As Alain Peyrefitte put it – the only resource capable of making mass transformations is trust in society now and in the future we will share.
Are we propelled into the future by the horrors of the past, or are we dragged towards it by the hope of better things to come? The sole evidence by which to make a judgement is the play of memory and imagination, and what links or separates them is our self confidence or its absence. To the former, progress is an axiom, to the later the idea is laughable.
Aside for H. Ford quote about exercise – ‘Exercise is bunk. If you are healthy, you don’t need it; if you are sick, you won’t do it.’
Today, we have lost our self-confidence and thus our trust in progress because….
Firstly there is a lack of an agency able to ‘move the world forwards – this is because the state remains fixed to a locality, but power flows well beyond its reach, and thus power has flowed from politics – thus we no longer know who it is that is going to move society forwards (thus our main question is not what is to be done, but who is going to do it)
Secondly, the idea of the ‘great society’ is dead – The ones that were planned (Marxism and economic liberalism) have both failed to live up to their expectations, and anyone who proposes a grand plan today is laughed out of court.
However, the modern idea of progress, even if there can be no salvation by society, is not one that is likely to end soon….. the life of modern men is still understood as a task, something to be worked on, it is something to be made…. The question is, what might progress actually look like in the age of ‘no salvation by society’?
The idea of progress has been deregulated and privatised – deregulated because the offers to ‘upgrade’ present realities are many and diverse and whether something counts as an upgrade is open to contest, also we can’t be certain if what we do will result in upgrading) , and privatised because individuals are called upon to use their own individual wits to improve their lives.
He now quotes Beck’s risk society – The tendency is towards the emergence of individualised forms and conditions of existence….. one has to choose and change one’s social identity as well as take the risks of doing so…. The individual himself or herself becomes the reproduction unit of the social in the lifeworld.
The problem is that the feasibility of progress rests on our hold on the present but we live in a world of universal flexibility… under conditions of acute and prospect-less Unsicherheit, penetrating all aspects of individual life – the sources of livelihood as much as the partnerships of love or common interests, parameters of professional as much as cultural identity, modes of presentation of self in public as much as patterns of health and fitness, values worth pursuing as much as the way to pursue them. And we all know from experience that plans may not work out like we plan them.
Bauman now suggests that Chaos Theory in science fits the mood of liquid modernity perfectly.
Where science and work use to anchor us to the present and guide us to the future (basically giving us structure), now they do not, and as we lose hold on the present, the less the future can be embraced… Stretches of time labelled future get shorter and the time-span of life as a whole is sliced into episodes dealt with ‘one at a time’. Continuity is no longer the mark of progress, life has become much more episodic.
Jacques Attali suggest that the labyrinth is the image which illustrates our ideas of the future. Chance or surprise rule in the labyrinth rather than pure reason.
Today work does not offer us a secure route to the future, it is more characterised by ‘tinkering’, and it does not have that fundamental grounding feature it had in the heavy modern period. For most people work is now judged on its aesthetic value – how satisfying it is of itself…. it can no longer give us satisfaction on the basis of ‘driving the nation forwards’, instead it is judged on its capacity to be entertaining or amusing.
(140-147) The rise and fall of labour
This section is simply a classic statement that industrialisation lead to freeing labour from the land, only to be tied to the Fordist Factory, but at least unionised Labour and Capital were equally as tide to each other – and came to be backed up by the welfare state. All of this gave some measure of stability.
(148 – 154) From marriage to cohabitation
The present day uncertainty is a powerful individualising force. It divides instead of uniting. The idea of ‘common interests’ grows ever more nebulous and loses all pragmatic value.
He now follows Bordieu, Granovetter and Sennet to flesh out how changes in the conditions of unemployment have led to workers seeing traditional unionisation as being inadequate because of episodic, temporary work placements – there is little change for mutual loyalty and commitment to take root and this goes hand in hand with disenchantment. The place of employment now feels like a camping site.
Bauman likens this loosening of ties between labour and capital as being like cohabitation…. in the background is the assumption of temporariness….. but this disengagement is unilateral,,,, capital has cut itself free from the needs of this particular bunch of labourers. Capital, of course, is not as volatile as it wants to be, but it is extraterritorial, lighter than ever.
To an unprecedented degree politics has become a tug of war between the speed with which capital can move and the slowing down capacities of local powers to ward off the threat of capital disinvestment, and paradoxically, one of the ways local authorities can keep capital in place is by allowing it freedom to leave.
Today, speed of movement has become perhaps the paramount factor of social stratification and the hierarchy of domination…. The main sources of profits seem to be ideas rather than in material objects… and the objects of competition here are the consumers, not the producers.
He now cites Reich’s four categories of work…From top to bottom – decreasing status.
The reproduction of labour
The bottom category are the easiest to replace, and they now they are disposable and so that there is no point in entering into long term commitments with their work colleagues….. this is a natural response to a flexibilised labour market. This leads to a decline in moral, as those who are left after one round of downsizing wait for the next blow of the axe.
At the other end of the pole are those for whom space matters little – They do not own factories, nor occupy administrative positions – Their knowledge comes from a portable asset – knowledge of the laws of the labyrinth…. to them novelty is good, precariousness is value, they love to create and play and embrace volatility.
Bauman now relays a tale of being in an airport lounge and seeing two business men spend and hour and a half each on their phones conducting business as if the other did not exist – such people, he says, exist in outer space – they are not connected to any particular locality.
He now turns to Nigel Thrift’s essay on soft capitalism who focuses on its vocabulary – surfing, networks, coalitions, fuzzy logic…. this is an ambiguous and chaotic world where knowledge ages quickly.
He rounds off by saying that those who are in charge are virtually networked and for them information moves at an incredible pace…. the life expectancy of knowledge is short, they live in a world of the perpetual new beginnings.
However, such people are ‘remotely controlled’ – they are dominated and controlled in a new way – leadership has been replaced by the spectacle, and surveillance by seduction.
(155-160) Excursus: a brief history of procrastination
Cras, in Latin, means tomorrow. To procrastinate is to manipulate the possibilities of the presence of a thing by putting off, delaying and postponing its becoming present, keeping it at a distance and deferring its immediacy.
Procrastination as a cultural practice came into its own with dawn of modernity. Its new meaning and ethical significance derived from the new meaningfulness of time, from time having a history, from time being history.
Procrastination is what makes life meaningful. To illustrate this, Bauman spends some time outlining the meaning of the pilgrim in modernity. The pilgrim is someone who is going somewhere, but they are allowed the time to reflect on where it is they are going, thus the pilgrimage is meaningful. The pilgrim’s life is a travel-towards-fulfillment, and travelling towards fulfillment gives the pilgrim’s life its meaning,but the meaning it gives is blighted with a suicidal impulse; that meaning cannot survive the completion of its destiny.
Procrastination reflects this ambivalence…. the pilgrim procrastinates in order to be better prepared to grasp things that truly matter.
The attitudinal/ behavioural precept which laid the foundation of modern society and rendered the modern way of being-in-the-world both possible and inescapable was the principle of ‘delay of gratification’… without this, there is no idea of progress.
Procrastination, in the form of ‘delay of gratification’ (he’s pushing the definition of procrastination here!) says Bauman ‘put sowing above harvesting, and investing above creaming off the savings, but this delay also elevated the status of the end product to be consumed…. the more severe the self-restraint, the greater would be, eventually, the opportunity for self-indulgence. Do save, since the more you save, the more money you will be able to spend. Do work, sine the more you work, the more you will consume.
Owing to its ambivalence procrastination fed two opposite tendencies. One led to the work ethic another led to the aesthetic of consumption…. however, today we no longer value delay of gratification, this is just seen as hardship plain and simple!
Today we live in a ‘casino culture’ – we don’t want to wait for our pleasures, we want them immediately, in this moment, and moreover, each moment of pleasure lasts for a shorter and shorter instant… thus procrastination is under attack – under pressure are the delay of gratifications arrival, and the delay of its departure.
I think this might be the most importat bit….
In modern society, the ethic of delayed gratification justified the work ethic, and we may need something similar to in the consumer society…. we need the principle of dissatisfaction to justify the central role of desire….
To stay alive and fresh desire must, time and time again, be gratified, yet gratification spells the end of desire. A society ruled by the aesthetic (NB not ethic) of consumption needs a very special kind of gratification, akin to the Derridean phamakon – the healing drug and poison both at the same time, administered slowly and never in its final dose…. a gratification not really gratifying.
Today, our culture wages a war agains procrastination, a war against taking distance, reflection, continuity and tradition, a war against what Heidegger’s ‘modality of being’.
(PP160-165) Human bonds in the Fluid World
The feeling of our time summed up in works such as ‘Risk Society’ involves a combination of the experience of…
insecurity -of position, entitlements, livelihood
uncertainty – about continuation and future stability
un-safety – of one’s body, one’s self and their extensions… possessions and neighbourhoods.
Bauman now suggests that, in terms of livelihood, unemployment is structural and all we need do is look around to see that no one is in a really secure job…. and in this context, immediate gratification is rational. It makes even more sense when we know that fashions come and go (enjoy it now or the moment is gone) and that assets can become liabilities.
Precarious economic and social conditions make people look at objects as disposable, for one off use…. the individual should travel light.. and we apply this to things as well as to human bonds (which rot and disintegrate if not worked at).
Partnerships today tend to be seen as things to be consumed, not produced. In the consumer market, the ostensibly durable products are as a rule offered for a trial period, return promised if the purchaser is less than fully satisfied. If the partner in partnership is conceptualised in such terms, then it is no longer the task of both people to make the relationship work – til death do us part no longer applies, as soon as our partner ceases to give us pleasure, we look to discard and replace them. This leads to temporariness in relationships.
There is also something of the self-fulfilling prophecy about this!
Perceiving the world, complete with its inhabitants, as a pool of consumer items makes the negotiation of human bonds exceedingly hard. Insecure people tend to be irritable, they are also deeply intolerant of anything that stands in the way of their desires, and since quite a few of their desires are bound to be frustrated, there are plenty of things and
people to be intolerable of. (NB I think he’s arguing that it is lack of face to face stable human bonds that leads to insecurity, uncertainty, unsafety, and then that leads to insecurity). He rounds off the section by suggesting that consumption is also lonely, unlike production which requires co-operation towards a joint goal.
(165 -167) The self-perpetuation of non-confidence
Alain Peyrefitte suggested that the common, uniting feature of modern capitalist society was confidence – in oneself, in institutions and in others. They all sustained one another. Together, these three formed the foundational structure of modernity – enabling investment in the future. Employment-Enterprise was the most important of these.
This is no longer the case… no one expects to be in the same job ten years from now, and many of us would prefer to risk our pensions on the stock-market. Bauman also reminds us again of the power imbalance – the precariat especially, bound to the local, are increasingly subject to the whims of capital, which the state is unlikely to regulate. I think his point at the end is that the old labour movements are dead (again it’s not that clear).
Firstly, he cites the increasing number of people who achieve degrees compared to 50 years ago – Today’s degree, in some ways, is like like the old high school diploma.
Secondly, he cites evidence of ‘degree inflation’ in many sectors. For example 25 percent of people employed as insurance clerks have a BA, but twice that percentage of insurance-clerk job ads require one. Among executive secretaries and executive assistants, 19 percent of job-holders have degrees, but 65 percent of job postings mandate them
Secondly, despite the increasing number of people with degrees and the increasing requirement to have one to get your foot in the door, almost 40% of U.S. employers report difficulties in finding graduates with the right skills, which means (somewhat ironically) that many of the above degrees are useless in actually preparing people for work.
Slayback argues (pretty convincingly I think) that a degree is no longer sufficient to guarantee you a job; he also suggests that it may not actually be worth doing one (and in terms of getting you ready for work, I think he’s right, but not necessarily so in terms of the intrinsic worth of the uni experience and knowledge gained).
According to Slayback, in order to be successful, graduates need to get better at signalling their skills through social media, rather than relying on the simple fact that they’ve got a degree to so that for them. He even goes so far as to suggest that the internet itself is actually undermining the value of a degree.
He gives the example of a young man who connected with him on Linked In, and through a Google search, managed to get an insight into what he’d actually achieved, which made the fact that he didn’t have a degree irrelevant.
Personally I think Slayback has a point about the virtues of social media in signalling your skills – if you’re looking to go into a sector that requires you to produce content in any form, them it’s an obvious idea to have a social media platform where you show off that content, through which you can demonstrate your skills.
I’m not so convinced that it’s worth risking not doing a degree, maybe you’re better off doing one, but from day one thinking about how to leverage every essay you write or every project you do into something that you can use in the future to make you more employable…. two birds with one stone and all that….
Understanding the Capitalist Mode of Production is crucial to an understanding of both Modernisation Theory and Dependency Theory – I thought the passage below did a nice job of summarizing what the ‘capitalist mode of production’ is.
A a special treat for my American readers, I have used the correct, British spelling of ‘labour’.
‘Today we think of Capitalism as the normal way of organising economic activity and tend to take it for granted, but it is a very different mode of production to previous feudal economies and hunter gatherer livelihoods…
Capitalism is based on private ownership of enterprises such as factories, plantations, mines, offices or shops and the operation of these assets for profit. Other elements of the means of production such as labour, land, technology and capital are also privately owned and can be bought and sold.
Labour is the most important input for production. Under capitalism, labour, the work of men and women, has become a special type of commodity which is sold in the marketplace. Capitalists use their money to buy labour and combine this commodity with other inputs, such as land, raw materials etc. to produce new goods and services. In profitable businesses, the economic value of these new goods and services are greater than the other inputs required to produce them.
Workers’ labour generates a surplus value greater than the workers’ wages. When the capitalist sells the finished commodities on the market they extract surplus value from the labour of the workers by paying them less than the value of the work they have completed. Capitalists are able to profit from the labour of others because they control the means of production.
The capitalist mode of production was different to earlier feudalism because of the role for waged labour and the importance of capital and markets for acquiring wealth. The important transition which lead to the expansion of capitalism around the globe through colonialism was the concentration of capitalist power through the fusion of state authority and capital.”
Source – Brooks, Andrew (2017) The End of Development
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.