Reclaiming Work: Beyond the Wage-Based Society
Cambridge: Polity, 1999, pp. 185
ISBN 0-7456-2127-9 (hbk) [pounds sterling] 50.00 $62.95.
ISBN 0-7456-2128-7 (pbk) [pounds sterling]14.99 $28.95
Andre Gorz has always been one of the most original socialist theorists. In his ground-breaking essay, Farewell to the Working Class, published in 1980, he courted controversy by attacking the existing Marxist pre-occupation with the industrial proletariat. For him, changes in advanced capitalism meant that the terrain for radical politics had itself to move on, creating new coalitions with both the Green and Women's Movements. Twenty years on, the relentless technological dynamic of capitalism and its effects upon both the world of work and the environment have proved Gorz to be more prescient than most of his critics. Additionally, unlike many of his Marxist contemporaries from the 1970s, Gorz still believes in an alternative to capitalism and remains committed to exploring the prospects for socialism. His new book Reclaiming Work picks up where Farewell... left off. This time, as the subtitle suggests, Gorz's thesis is concerned with the end of work as opposed to the end of the mass production worker: 'Wag e-base society has less to offer humanity and the world than the social model of Kerala' (p.26). Gorz is more interested in arguing for the principle of a basic income linked to a debate about the redistribution of working time. At the same time, for him, the social relations of consumption-- who decides what is produced (guns versus butter, say) and under what conditions--needs to be addressed as much as the social relations of production.
Starting with a critique of neo-liberal style globalisation, Gorz's concern is to fashion an alternative vision. Globalisation, in his view, has not eliminated the state as an effective actor, but has simply provided the alibi for a shift in the balance of power and resources from labour to capital. The relentless drive to fashion a low-road model of international capitalism, based upon low wage competition, is given the lie by the continued success and prosperity of countries such as Denmark where a stare welfarist model continues to survive and indeed compete effectively with free market Anglo-American capitalism. Whilst supporting the principle of the welfare state and traditional social-democratic forms of redistribution, however, Gorz's thesis entails a far more radical attack upon the current...