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Future Prospects for the Young Generation

by Wolfgang Belitz Friday, Sep. 15, 2006 at 2:32 AM

The social contract of modern times based on lifelong full-employment in paid work is broken.. We produce with Bill Gates and dis-tribute with Bismarck..After 200 years, we need a new social contract, a new reconciliation of work and income.


By Wolfgang Belitz

[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, Wolfgang Belitz is a social pastor in the Evangelical church in Westphalia.]

1. Gloomy Future Prospects for Young Persons

Paid work disappears slowly but surely in modern highly developed technical industrial society. In the time period from 1966 to 1996, the total volume of paid work decreased 20% while the gross domestic product doubled from 1.3 trillion to 2.6 trillion German marks (DM).

Full employment, as we know it, is not possible again. On account of technological possibilities for increased productivity of industrial and service production, all attempts to reach higher employment through higher growth failed in the medium- and long-term. The orthodox equation has never functioned correctly and has now lost all persuasiveness. Lower costs = higher profits = more investments = more growth = more jobs. This formula can only be helpful when the implied productivity expectations are specified. Otherwise “jobless growth,” growth without jobs-growth, can never be excluded.

Unemployment grows along with the helplessness of political and economic elites. Still the ruling claim of neoorthodox economic liberals dominates. Deregulation occurs on all fronts of the world of work. Normal working conditions erode. Varied employment relations in all shades spread toward a McJob society. Today 40% of the gainful working population are already either entirely without work or in job relations different from normal working conditions.

The rich become more and richer. That is intentional so investments flow and the poor and unemployed find work (cf. John Kenneth Galbraith’s formula: the horses must be fed so the sparrows survive). Nevertheless unemployment and poverty increase. The poor become more and poorer. To stabilize conditions, a ruthless solution is now slowly enforced. Soon social benefits will only be given when people work. Formulated critically, work will be enjoined for those who have no work or work in low-price “forced labor” beyond the constitutional right to work. The society of the future is the feudal “maid- and errand-boy” society of the past. The recent report to the Club of Rome “Work in the Future” includes the demand: Everybody between 18 and 65 who has no work and no income must do forced labor 20 hours a week and receive the state subsistence level of 800 DM. No future perspective is offered for youths without work and income.

2. “Entrepreneurial” Future Prospects for Young Persons

According to the vision of the Commission for Future Questions of Bavaria and Saxony (1997), our society should move from the “employee-centered industrial society” to the “entrepreneurial knowledge society.” Employees are no longer perfect imitators of pre-given blueprints but become entrepreneurs of their labor power as “specialized generalists” through their personal responsibility and creativity.

Since the future need of the economy is only partly known, the key qualification of key qualifications is knowledge and renewal of knowledge. To fulfill the new education mandate facilitating the “entrepreneurial knowledge society,” a “creative destruction of schools and education systems is necessary. These schools and systems must be re-conceptualized as “public interest enterprises” in which general- and personal education are important alongside the key qualification of key qualifications: personal dispositions, social competence and strengthening the work virtues, efficiency, patience, concentration ability, reliability and accuracy, in short, a renewal of the protestant work ethos for mastering life in the next millennium.

In this view, a dramatically intensifying social inequality among people is legitimated as a natural consequence of competition on the market since every individual bears his or her entrepreneurial risk alone. This new conception of society is probably not compatible with the constitution but the constitution is not the present-day reality.

3. Social Justice as a Future Perspective for Young Persons

Modern highly developed industrial societies face the necessity of radical social adjustment-reforms. The ruling elites are refusing with all means the necessity of a foundational reform. The social contract of modern times based on lifelong full-employment in paid work (at least of all men) is broken. The most modern industrial societies produce more and more material wealth with less and less paid work and threaten to fall in the “Paradise paradox.” We have the work saving production methods of the 21st century. We produce with Bill Gates and distribute with Bismarck. We have a hundred-year distribution deficit. Whoever applies modern forms of production must develop modern forms of distribution. Distribution means a more just distribution of social wealth, not a distribution of shortage.

After 200 years, we need a new social contract making possible a new reconciliation of work and life for men and women adapted to the way of life of nature. We know four forms of work: paid work – house/family work – personal work – citizen work. We know three kinds of income: gainful income – transfer income – capital income. We know two genders: women and men. We know ONE world. A new social contract means a new orientation and mixture of work and income for men and women in ONE world. The best that our society can do for youth is the development of a new social contract that admits full employment for all men and women is not possible and need not be possible.

We need a fundamental reform of the distribution system of work and income, an expanded definition of work and exodus from the idea that factories and offices becoming empty can make possible a broad lasting income security – on the basis of paid work. Our society is miles away from understanding what kind of reforms must now be introduced to pass on a “social technical progress” in the sense of a “Second Modern.” Being young could be a delight today. That it has become a burden is the failure of the elites. We on earth have nothing more to offer than freedom and justice. Freedom and justice need not be undermined or abandoned in the chaos of a “post-modern.” They must be preserved, renewed and gained by struggle under the conditions of a “Second Modern.”

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