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We need to redefine exclusion

  • 21 January 2019


Inequality is not an aberration that comes with neoliberalism. It is the foundation of neoliberalism, along with its partners in social crime: patriarchy and colonisation. As Sharan Burrow, the Australian General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), puts it so poignantly: 'We live in a fragmented world.' The excluded form the majority across the globe.

We must move beyond the false divide between the exploited and the excluded. Whether someone is locked out of paid work or income adequacy, or locked in to insecure, precarious, poorly paid work or some form of modern slavery or servitude; whether someone has lost their job, or is at risk of losing their job, we are all in some degree of danger — some much more than others.

But we are kidding ourselves if we think that the edge is far away, in a different world. Or that any of us can enjoy the privileges that come with being beneficiaries of the sufferings of others, without one day paying the social price.

The neoliberal fantasy has seen an unprecedented building of walls, to keep people out while providing the highest level of private protection for the privileged. The notion of the social, of the common, of shared fate and shared responsibility, has been displaced by an ideological rupture that has seen the demonisation of democratic socialism alongside the deification of neoliberalism.

In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon wrote: 'What counts today, the question which is looming on the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity must reply to this question, or be shaken to pieces by it.'

Even though these words were written over 50 years ago they ring loudly and truly for us today as we build the road out of the neoliberal era. Even the global institutions that have helped facilitate the neoliberal agenda fear the destructive fire ignited by extreme inequality across the globe. But even though the fire threatens all of us, the very wealthy still seem to feel that they will be safe because they have paid the premium for protection. As for everyone else, you only get what you pay for. It's in the rules.

But the rules are broken. And not just the ones pertaining to industrial relations. The rules, left as they are, will offer safety to no one. They will only paper over the social crimes committed against the planet and the people.


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