What Next for Distributive Politics?
In the preceding chapters, I have reflected on the way that non- labor-
based distributive allocations have come to play a significantly expanded
role in a southern African context of entrenched and structural mass un-
employment. But this is not only a southern African story. A worldwide
set of developments has created massive new waves of urbanization even
as the demand for low- skilled and manual labor has sharply eroded. In a
host of different empirical sites spread across the far corners of the world
map, those leaving the agricultural sector have found no industrial jobs
awaiting them, while even communities formerly provisioned by labor
have been obliged to learn the ways of what Michael Denning (2010) has
termed “wageless life.” When Guy Standing (2002, 7) declares “the end of
the century of labouring man,” we may find him guilty of a certain exag-
geration, but any observer of the contemporary global po litical economy
will recognize that his words speak to a certain reality.
It was long a fundamental assumption, shared by perspectives as dif-
ferent as Marxism-Leninism and modernization theory, that as poor, rural
folk around the world exited subsistence agriculture, they would enter a
new world within which wage labor would provide the normal form of dis-
tribution. Wages received by workers would now provide livelihoods for a
new “industrial man,” enabling at the same time new forms of consump-
tion (thus the paradigmatic “Fordist” image of the worker/consumer who
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