LIFELONG WORK

By Robert Kurz

[This article published in “Freitag,” 11/4/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.exit-online.org/html/druck/php.]


The degeneracy of the capitalist reproduction of society appears in two diametrically opposite imperatives: “We” must become more and more and at the same time “we” must become less and less, more and more because who should otherwise pay the pensions of the damned long-living seniors and less and less because where should be jobs arise for the new baby-boomer generations under the conditions of the third industrial revolution and globalization. Pensions schemes and the labor market are in an irreconcilable opposition. This schizoid-argumentation has long sunk into mass consciousness. Neighbors criticize childless heterosexual couples for not breeding any rising generation making social security contributions. At the same time, parents become bitter because their children are not offered apprenticeships and grow into a precarious future. The basis of productive labor melts away while the mass of transfer recipients swells. This cannot be good and points to the inner contradiction of the capitalist way of life and mode of production.

Lengthening lifetime working hours is a socio-political squaring of the circle, first to 67 years and up to 70 where possible as the neoliberal discourse announces. Discussed for a long time, this grandiose solution now appears with social-democratic stomachaches. Social democracy lives from its stomachaches. That a society with the highest productivity in world history chains seniors to production longer than in the Middle Ages is hardly upsetting. People accustom themselves to the paradoxes of this best of all worlds. A problem shift occurs. The same productivity now makes work unnecessary on the global scale while only the one who works should eat. When pensioners are condemned to play time, they obviously block the rare jobs for the next generation. Crisis management only fills holes to open new holes. Political pragmatism continues ad absurdum.

Employer associations have officially announced their responsible approval. For cost- and efficiency reasons, businesses do not really want to train or hire people over 40. The infamous dynamic and highly motivated Olympic athletes at 25 with degrees and occupational experience are desired. Where they should come from and who pays for their training is regarded as a problem of society, not of business. This pretentious attitude brings forth choosy sellers of labor power in globalization. Old men in production are only discontinued models and deadwood to be dismissed as quickly as possible. Thus there is actually a conflict of interest between social crisis management and administrative rationality. Until recently, the human “excrements of production” were disposed of in the luxury variant through early pensioning and in the misery variant through dismissals and transfers in the Hartz IV fate (drastically reduced pensions and unemployment benefits). If necessary, this will continue through outsourcing of production to Eastern Europe and China. The expensive native Olympic athletes are also dismissed, not only the builders of the economic wonder.

The Dorado of wild capitalism in the East shows the direction. In the East, highly motivated young cheap teams are available while life expectancy has fallen drastically and useless seniors hand over their spoons without complaining. That is a future model. Lengthening lifetime working hours in Germany is stylized as a transition program. When seniors are dragged into the production process, they are exposed to the performance rush and the all-pervasive mobbing. No one holds out for long that doesn’t have a fit body any more. A two-class medicine prevails. The phrase “socially compatible early death” that slipped out from a medical association president ushers in a new age. The end of life is advanced in the daily grind of employment. They are not hedonist pensioners any longer but soldiers of commercialization who die in their boots so to speak. What could be more beautiful? Thus the social dilemma dissolves, at least for the crisis management. The young generations get nothing out of this since their potential jobs will be rationalized away. The old Fordist job owners hear the judgment “lifelong.” That is capitalist justice.