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De-commodification - De-Commodification in Social Policy by...

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De-Commodification in Social Policy by Gøsta Esping-Andersen The root of modern social policy stem from the process by which both human needs and labor power became commodities. Our well-being depends on our cash-nexus - money paid in wages for commodified labour. The onset (or onslaught) of modern capitalism transformed the structure of social policy. o Traditionally, it was not the labor contract, but the family, the church, or the lord that decided a person’s capacity for survival. The rise of capitalism came with the fall of “pre-commodified” social protection. Capitalism led to the need to satisfy human wants (purchase of commodities) and with that the prominence of purchasing-power and income distribution. When labor power also became a commodity, survival outside the market are at stake. o This is the most conflictual issue in social policy. The problem of commodification lay at the heart of Marx’s analysis of class development: the transformation of independent producers into propertyless wage-earners. o For Marx, The commodification of labor power implied alienation. Labor’s commodity has been a central concern of modern philosophy, ideology, and social theory. Classic laissez-faire liberals opposed alternatives to pure cash-nexus because they would disturb the supply and demand equilibrium. o Minimum wage would only make poverty worse. Marxism, on the other hand, had mixed views. o In some cases, human welfare could only occur with the abolition of wage labor. o In other cases, social amelioration would bring about decisive change. Traditional conservatism opposed commodifying humanity because it would jeopardize authority and social integration. o They feared it would lend a blow the old order. The new Poor Laws, amended in 1834, were a social policy intended to make wage employment and the cash-nexus the cornerstone of a person’s very existence. Welfare came to depend on the willingness of someone to hire one’s labor power. Essentially, it was designed to establish market hegemony in the distribution of welfare. o The market becomes to the worker a prison within which it is imperative to behave as a commodity in order to survive: there were` no alternatives to property and no state to which human needs can be directed. The commodification of both wants and people may strengthen the engine of capitalism, but it weakens the individual worker. The worker can choose between alternative utilities, jobs, employers, and leisure trade-offs. o But Marx argued that is freedom behind prison walls, hence an illusion. Workers are not commodities like others because they must survive and reproduce both themselves and the society they live in. Labor as a commodity is affected by contingencies such as illness and the nature of the business cycle.
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