Familiarising myself with the thoughts and writings of Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian-born philosopher with an endearing speech impediment of the slushy kind (Lucky he's not one of the several seditious scribes from Caesarea...). For Zizek, contemporary capitalism has privitised so much of what Marx called the 'general intellect' (i.e., general knowledge of all sorts) that more and more workers are becoming superfluous. He sees old-school capitalists as having been submerged into salaried management, and earning more by a societal assumption (through pseudo-scientific 'evaluations') than their expertise actually qualifies them for (Tony Maryyatt pay considerations for example). The huge salaries these elites command defines what we observe as income disparity.
In a recent LRB, Zizek runs through four features if current bourgousie angst.
The hierarchy embodies lower social status while constantly articulating our inherent value, the nobleness of our drudgery. So we have tribal leaders, iwi elites, senior managers, cultural brokers and so on. Nice work if you can get...the rest of us are rank and file 'tribal members', beneficiaries, shareholders with shares oftentimes measured as very small fractions.
Assumptions of a meritocracy are scotched by our experiences of social struggle. Politics pervades all decision-making (I'm in the midst of Leeston RFC team amalgamation and coaching dispute with Dunsandel. Think, Manchester City v. United...) For Zizek this enables us "to avoid the painful conclusion that someone else’s superiority is the result of his merit and achievements." They're connected, but still wankers.
There are so many variables - whakapapa, inside information, timing, collaborative support, institutional configurations, that "...our position on the social scale depends on a natural and social lottery; the lucky ones are those born with the right genes in rich families". Life's still a bladey lottery...
We are not just buffeted but absolutely fecken bashed by uncontrollable forces with their unpredictable consequences..."the invisible hand of the market may lead to my failure and my neighbour’s success, even if I work much harder and am much more intelligent." Who'd be a wharfie or freezing worker these days! (they were prime jobs when I was younger). Engineer? Hey, some are breaking down on the stand as they recount their decisions killed people. Who's irreplaceable? Who can't be undercut by cheaper labour from offshore? Your flatscreen can crush your baby. So it goes...
Lots more of Zizek's work to digest. I've ordered one of his books, 'The Sublime Object of Ideology' (case in point, $25 via Fishpond, $40 in Unity Books).