Show 533: Economic Inequality & the Problem with Work

Economic Inequality & the Problem with Work w/Kathi Weeks and Michael D. Yates

Many secular humanists traditionally focused on the so-called hard sciences and religion in their analyses but this is clearly not enough. In time, many also address the social sciences and key political issues from Human Rights to Separation of Church and State to the crises of Climate Change. However, the willingness to apply the scientific method, healthy skepticism, and humanistic ethics to our more central political structures has been very lacking…even the willingness to take on the illusion of “free will” gets more traction with humanist in America. This is why we try to cover these issues when we can on this show. Today we will address our economic system and what it means to be a contributor within its boundaries…as well as what is at the core of one of our greatest problems today, massive inequality.

Capitalism can be, and has been, described in a great many ways. From the Austrian and Chicago Schools of economic thought to the Keynesian models to the Marxist and Anarchist analyses. Among those who do the academic work required to grapple with all of this, we will find sometimes complex, often contradictory, and always passionate points-of-view on what we should do about capitalism here in the 21st Century. Among the general populous in the United States, on the other hand, we find confusion, misapplied labels, dogmatism and not a little anger.

We’ve talked about this from different angles and tried to make sense of it all via political science, history, social science, and even evolutionary biology and neuroscience. After all, Capitalism didn’t spring up out of nowhere, and it doesn’t exist in vacuum – being value-neutral as some might want to believe. So today we are going to look at the capitalist condition from both overarching and under-arching perspectives…The former being the huge inequality problem we now face, and the latter being what is at the core of the capitalist system…Work. To do this, we will be speaking with two special guests: Kathi Weeks and Michael D. Yates.

Audio can be found here!

Show 256: Labor Day Weekend Special! “Selling the Work Ethic: From Puritan Pulpit to Corporate PR”

Audio here!

Barry Seidman marks Labor Day with a discussion of the rhetoric and effects of the so-called Protestant Work Ethic, which has allowed a separation of work from “jobs” in the American mindset. If as humanists we value “the good life,” along with creativity, freedom and the interest in each of us becoming the best we can be, why do so many of us ignore or even encourage a socioeconomic system which deprives so many of us of these things?

Work in the normative sense is about the natural human proclivity to be productive, contributing members of society via creative, liberating and satisfying efforts. Such work is about freely associated labor, equal opportunity, the ability of each member of society to find and perform whatever kind of work he or she enjoys and can excel at, and work performed without relying on command authority or any other form of coercion.

Work as “jobs” (that is, work as we know it today under capitalism), is quite something else. We worship work (jobs) in today’s culture, identifying those who can’t work or find it difficult to find satisfying, joyful work, as lazy, deviant or “too picky”. When people can’t succeed in our work-money centered society, we blame them rather than the system they’ve found themselves in. We even go as far as to argue that those who don’t well adjust to the system are therefore mentally or emotionally challenged somehow!

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