Redistribution of social capital

Regular readers of this blog probably know that I consider business people to be an elite subset of the population, and that I include small business in this characterization. Even the low-income or insolvent among the self-employed I regard with what can only honestly be called a certain amount of envy. I envy their independence, and I suspect that differences in independence, like differences in social rank, income, wealth and political power, can be the feedstock for hierarchies. Often people associated with family businesses talk (sometimes brag) about having worked long hours at age 7, 8, 9 etc. Sometimes this is presented as a sacrifice, sometimes as a learning experience; almost never as a privilege. Given that calls for privilege-checking are getting a bad rap from those (including some in the left) who like ridiculing political correctness, I’ll back off on any such assertion. I’ll simply say that it would seem such experiences might translate into some social and economic advantages, along with perhaps some possible disadvantages.

The legacy of a family with entrepreneurial roots goes well beyond the family business and other assets, into what must include social capital. At least as common as stories of the accomplishments of people from business families are stories of immigrants who arrived propertyless and pulled themselves up from their bootstraps. One approach to redistribution of family social capital comes from Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut, basically in the form of a government policy assigning people to extended families. Government policy, of course, is not legitimately part of the anarchist tool-chest, but perhaps there are even better alternatives. The Anarchy and Society blog informs us:

If one’s comrades know whom to contact from other communities, this is valuable information in the search for allies and broader solidarity. Most importantly, anarchist networks are premised upon the free access to information, whether it is mere data, facts, analysis, ideas, or theory. Consequently, anarchists place an emphasis on lowering the cost to information (via free ‘zines, leaflets, internet essay archives, or guerrilla radio programs), the democratic creation of movement analyses (such as with the Independent Media Center model), and mass distribution of news (for example, the A-Infos News Service and accompanying free radio project). To the extent that these information channels permeate every sector of the anarchist movement, the more likely participants will be highly-engaged in important movement debates and theorizing, will have up-to-date understanding of current events and movement activity, and will feel a sense of unity with each other. The quality of information people can acquire in these networks will determine the level of social capital and thus influence the potential of movement personnel’s ability to achieve their goals. Movements can aspire to accomplish their goals by wielding information as a tool to combat ignorance, confusion, censorship, and seclusion.

About n8chz

पृथ्वी की उच्च किराया जिले में उद्यमिता कौशल अभाव
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4 Responses to Redistribution of social capital

  1. I so agree with you. Both my father and my sister have their own small businesses and I truly admire them for doing it. My sister was employed with a huge company and she was making a really big salary. However, she wanted to have the freedom to do her job the way she wanted to. She was dying for an opportunity to put in practice her own beliefs as to how that kind of business should be run. So she left her job – she had a newborn baby, too, at that time – and started her own business with her best friend. They have been in business for 8 months and have already created two jobs. She is very happy, and I’m completely proud of her.

  2. n8chz says:

    Warren Johnson’s statement on creating jobs at less cost and use of oil seems to imply some amount of social capital redistribution: “The cost of assisting those who would like to develop the sustainable niche will be small compared to creating jobs in the growth economy.”

  3. I’m surprised somebody so market-negative would not find the term “social capital” absurd and distasteful. To look at it as capital would mean to see it as fungible, transferable, etc. Aren’t those all reasons why we want to get away from the transactional economy and build something less alienating and more alive and diverse?

    There’s some stuff I could say anecdotally about kids growing up in entrepreneurial families, but I’m not sure it would contribute to the discussion. Suffice to say, as a freelancer myself, I understand why people would perceive me as privileged, but it’s only from looking at my situation by covering up one eye. Is it privileged to have to beg your clients to pay you for services rendered? To wonder where your next paycheck will come from? To have to account personally to the tax authorities for all their meaningless bullshit rules? Yes, I choose that worry over the worry of being fired, and I’m grateful for it, but it does not make it less of a worry.

    I’ll never have an employee as long as I live, and I think that’s where some of this so-called social capital has the most opportunity for redistribution. Indeed, as a Wobbly one of the things I’d like to see the labor movement do is cultivate a more entrepreneurial sense of overthrowing capitalism, if that’s not a total contradiction. Instead of taking over existing workplaces, form some of your own. In my industry of software development, the costs have never been lower, but people still choose security when mounds of money could be made just by striking out on your own and undercutting the big firms. I convert this surplus of sorts into the need to work less whenever possible, but getting people to understand that we have a choice of the kind of lifestyle associated with how we provide is surprisingly tough.

    • n8chz says:

      Perhaps I do find the term “social capital” absurd and distasteful. Mainly, I think of it as yet another form of privilege, but “check your privilege” rhetoric, I must admit, is starting to really get old, so I didn’t phrase it that way; at least I don’t think I did. I’m actually very interested in anything you or anyone else has to say about kids growing up in entrepreneurial families. I don’t necessarily regard that as privilege, but I do find it impossible to believe there is no upside. To answer one of your questions, no, I categorically do not think it is privileged to have to beg your clients to pay you for services rendered. I’m on the fence as to whether it’s more or less degrading than having to beg people for the opportunity to perform the services in the first place (but of curse the freelancer is under that burden also). At least the stiffed contractor has the right (by the code of ethics I run on, anyway) to say they’ve done whatever it is professionally. Likewise about wondering where one’s next paycheck is coming from. Ironically, many pro-market types seem to me to equate precarity of livelihood with freedom, if not privilege, or IMHO equivalently, equate economic security with peonage, or “being taken care of.” Thank you for at least labeling economic insecurity as a disadvantage. I tend to go a bit further; seeing it as a strategy of social control. I admit that “it’s not personal” is a hard concept for me to wrap my brain around, even though it’s an obvious feature of *&^%$#@ economics.

      I take it that taking on an employee would make you a non-Wobbly, if I understand their membership criteria correctly. What about an apprentice? 😉

      I’m not entirely sure small-entrepreneur-to-employee is where “social capital” has the most opportunity for redistribution. Factors such as non-compete agreements, disclosure agreements and other forms of contract feudalism are direct impediments to redistribution of social and human capital, and are by no means unique to “big business.” I’ve always thought that the labor movement is the appropriate venue for transmission of social capital. Basically, I’m thinking the craft-union notion of apprenticeship, minus the notion of trade secrets. Then amp it up with what I’ll call a “cross training” program, in which hopefully one can fit dozens of in-depth apprenticeships in a lifetime. I gave a rough outline of how this might be done in my post on angel economics. Also, a move to standardization of terminology, or at least weights and measures, for heaven’s sake, would be nice so each “trade” isn’t speaking its own language.

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