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Rogernomics, income inequality & gender politics

Written By: - Date published: 12:22 pm, April 3rd, 2014 - 22 comments
Categories: activism, capitalism, class war, community democracy, election 2014, feminism, Left, same old national, sustainability, workers' rights - Tags:

A diverse but supportive wide ranging network left-wingers can provide the energy and activism needed for the upcoming election campaign. Time to end the “neoliberal” tyranny!

Income inequalities and social inequalities are interconnected. “Neoliberal” discourse attempts to sever this connection, making the focus on the economy all that matters.  Sometimes left-wing analysis and campaigns also repeat this fracturing.  The left will become stronger if the inter-relationship between social and economic inequalities is acknowledged.  One of the more important aspects of such an acknowledgement is the strengthening of left wing networks: networks that include people and organisations involved in campaigning for social, cultural and economic justice.

The latest rounds in the struggles against both rape culture, and the economics of rape crisis funding, show how “neoliberalism” has weakened and fractured the broader left since the 1980s.

What to make of the latest crime stats? NZ’s recorded crime is going down.  Nevertheless, crimes likely to be committed by people under severe financial stress, remained the same or even increased slightly: crimes such as theft, property damage and burglary.

Furthermore, sexual offenses increased by 11.6% in the year ended December 2013. Meanwhile Rape Crisis centers are struggling to get adequate funding.  Tessa Johnstone on Stuff reports today:

Rape crisis centres are struggling under the weight of increased demand for services and a dwindling pool of funding.

Survivors of sexual violence and agencies supporting victims and offenders spoke at a parliamentary inquiry into funding of specialist sexual violence services yesterday.

Wellington Rape Crisis manager Eleanor Butterworth estimated that about 20 per cent of their staff hours were spent on completing funding applications and reports, but despite their efforts the agency is running on a deficit of up to $100,000 every year.

Rape Crisis Centres are one of the practical outcomes of second wave feminist campaigns.  The subsequent history of their struggles, as seen in New Zealand flies in the face of some of the atatcks made from the left on feminism.  It is sometimes claimed that “identity politics” (meaning especially feminism and the politics of gender and sexuality) is a middle class women’s thing that has served to weaken the left.  It has been claimed that politics like that of those campaigning against rape culture is a tool of the neoliberal right, and one that gained ascendency with the rise of Rogernonmiccs.

Sometimes also, it has been claimed that a focus on “culture” and social processes is a diversion from the “real” economic struggle – against poverty etc.  However, feminism generally also came under attack during the impact of the “1980s “neoliberal revolution”.  This can be seen in the specific ways that anti- rape campaigns and rape crisis centres came under attack.

In January this year, Kirsty Johnston wrote on Stuff about initiatives to dispel rape myths. In the course of the article she wrote about the struggles of groups doing rape prevention and crisis work:

The money issues began at the end of the 1980s, when funding was redirected from prevention into frontline services, and then began to dry up altogether. In 1991, the national Rape Crisis office closed.

So the 1980s was when the attacks on funding severely weakend the initiatives to prevent and respond to rape came under severe attack.  In doing this the inter-twined economic/financial aspects of rape and the cultural and social elements were fractured.

The cultural aspects are summed up with this explanation of rape culture by Pamela R Fletcher (2010):

we define a rape culture as “a complex of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women [and girls], a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent, and a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women [and girls] and presents it as the norm” (Buchwald, Fletcher, and Roth 2005, XI). The physical and emotional terror that stems from sexual violence, while often deemed as terrible, is usually dismissed as individual misfortune rather than understood as a cultural phenomenon.

“Economics” and “political economy” have never been free of patriarchal assumptions and gender biases.  Recent policies of austerity have been particularly damaging to large numbers of women:

Women disproportionately paid for the trigger of the recession, for the recession’s job losses and other social impacts, and the austerity measures that followed.

An anti-austerity march in London

Social and income justice and fairness, supported by a sustainable, eco-friendly economy, are positive aims for the left to unite around: for diverse groups and campaigns to be working towards, while ending the damaging era of “Rogernomics”.

all of us

Vote left in this year’s election – tell it to all those you know in your networks.



22 comments on “Rogernomics, income inequality & gender politics”

  1. Tracey 1

    when john key trumpets the fall in crime he ignores rape and domestic violence… funny that.

  2. Ennui 2

    K, I wont discuss some subjects and assumptions in your article because we wont agree, and I certainly don’t agree with some of the above. What I think is truly valuable is your statement Social and income justice and fairness, supported by a sustainable, eco-friendly economy, are positive aims for the left to unite around.

    The great thing about the statement is that it does not challenge or get into things like specific “who is going to pay for it” or the “politics of envy”. And who cares if its all Rogers fault, that’s so yesterday. Your statement has an all inclusive broad goal that is hard to counter without looking like the Grinch. Well done.

    • karol 2.1

      Well, Ennui, I think there can be some aims for the left to unite around, while inevitably there will be disagreements – on specifics; on some priorities, etc. But I think it’s important that we identify and work with some common ground.

      • Ennui 2.1.1

        Another way of putting it might be, “I dont agree with your analysis of the causes BUT I agree with the desired outcomes”….

        The important thing in that position is that we (the Left) must not get fractured and fight battles against one another around interpretations etc, we don’t fight one another, and we only fight for the common outcome.

        Your statement also frames the language, sets the agenda and that’s important.

  3. Person of Interest 3

    The phenomenon of increasing income disparity is universal and is the result of profound changes in the demand patterns for labour. Once you could get a decent living even though you left school at 12 and had no skills other than your ability to labour. But computers and machines have changed all this. People with marketable skills earn more than they ever have, but those without such skills find it difficult to get a decent pay, or even a job. If anyone has an answer to these problems then please let me know, as all I have seen as supposed answers are nonsensical and superficial and will do far more harm than good.I believe education is the answer, but it will take hard work and a long time to have an effect.
    As for neo-liberal economics – not one government of either left or right has abandoned the reforms made during those times. Even Cuba is currently undertaking neoliberal reforms – it had to, just as we had to due to the appalling legacy of Muldoon’s maladministration.

    • miravox 3.1

      “The phenomenon of increasing income disparity is universal and is the result of profound changes in the demand patterns for labour

      The phenomenon of increasing income disparity is universal and is the result of profound failure to maintain labour protections at an interntional level. This includes a willingness to incorporate and adhere to worker protections in free-trade agreements/zones that ensure minimum worker safety standards, pay and conditions. Same goes for environmental protections.

    • karol 3.2

      Some south American countries have abandoned neoliberalism. But they have done so under extreme pressure from powerful corporate and political players outside their countries.

      The 2008 financial crisis was the result of the failure of neoliberalism. But the powerful players keep pushing for more of the same.

      The left has so far not been able to provide a replacement. But they also are trying to provide an alternative under extreme pressure from the powerful corporates (think TPPA for instance).

      The way forward needs to be all those on the left (many focused on different issues or strstegies from each other), to mobilise around their common aims – to change the NZ government this year for a start).

      Open democracy had an interesting and useful article on it last year: “How to kill a zombie: strategizing the end of neoliberalism”

      Neoliberalism is a “zombie” because it’s a dead man walking. Mark fisher calls for a new kind of solidarity – one that is plastic and able to adapt from one issue and context to another.

      Rethinking solidarity in these terms may help us to give up some tired assumptions. This kind of solidarity doesn’t necessarily entail overarching unity or centralized control. But moving beyond unity needn’t lead us into the flatness of horizontalism, either. Instead of the rigidity of unity – the aspiration for which, ironically, has contributed to the left’s notorious sectarianism – what we need is the co-ordination of diverse groups, resources and desires. The right have been better postmodernists than us, building successful coalitions out of heterogeneous interest groups without the need for an overall unity. We must learn from them, to start to build a similar patchwork on our side. This is more a logistical problem than a philosophical one.

      • Person of Interest 3.2.1

        One of the last acts Bill Clinton signed into law was a demand to Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac and the FHL Banks to lend mortgages provided the equity covered the loan (Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005). This lead to rocketing house prices as demand greatly exceeded supply. The mortgages and the insurances covering them became a favourite trading item, as bundled derivatives, in trading houses. They used an equation for evaluating risk for which the formulators were awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. Unfortunately, the formula was flawed and there was a lack of regulation or other controls on trading in money and money derivatives. It wasn’t neoliberalism that caused the problem as the market would have sorted it out pronto had the first offender, which appeared to be Lehman Bros, had been left to sort out its own problems instead of being propped up with quantitative easing (good Keynesian economics this).
        Trading in money is always dangerous and the left should concentrate on ways to control it. Why is it dangerous? Well, our (sensible) money supply is demand driven – banks draw down money based on the business they transact. But if many of these transactions involve speculation in money then the value and volume of money in the economy become disassociated from the “real” economy – and the latter suffers.
        It was yet another example of central control that caused the crisis – not neoliberalism (whatever that is).
        There is no future for any party trying to return to the bad old days of State Socialism when, for example, the Railways Department employed 10 times the number of staff the Railways do today, yet carried less freight and di it at very high cost. And denigration of Douglas economics (the norm in economics today) is to denigrate Labour’s own history. It was absolutely necessary at the time, though you might take issue at the speed it was done and the lack of compensatory mechanisms, but carrying on with Muldoon’s economics would have destroyed us. It is easy to be wise after the event.
        Economics has to be what it is, and the left should concentrate on social issues.

        • Person of Interest

          The aim in development is to build up assets that enrich the lives of the people. South Korea, Japan, and now China all followed this path. Most countries are improving their standard of living, so it can’t the result of capitalism, which simply put is the free flow of capital – or investment if you prefer a less emotively laden term. Poor countries are poor because they don’t follow this path – no matter how entrepreneurial they are. Corruption, inefficiency, and waste is their lot. Hong Kong stamped out corruption post WW2 and look the results – astounding – capitalism and decent morality in action. Now, if you want to study non-capitalist nations look at North Korea or Cuba (though the Castro brothers are extremely capitalistic with their own earnings and assets).
          And I do not regard “making do” and “patching up” as being entrepreneurial since they do not add to the asset base. A well maintained bike is a valuable asset, whereas one patched up with a manuka axle is a liability since it is likely to fail and kill the rider!
          Education has to be “in the broad” and cover necessary social attitudes such as honesty and respect for others as well as the usual curriculum items. But changes in attitudes take a long time to take effect even though the eventual changes are highly desirable.
          It’s easier to blame capitalism in spite of the abundant evidence to the contrary but only successful countries with free flows of capital can provide for their citizens and the environment.

          • Colonial Viper

            The aim in development is to build up assets that enrich the lives of the people. South Korea, Japan, and now China all followed this path. Most countries are improving their standard of living

            Don’t buy into the hype mate, and don’t even think you can claim that these countries aren’t riddled by massive scale corruption and bureaucratic stagnation.

            The living standard and income of western countries are being smashed, public funds diverted into a massive programme of corporate and banking welfare; Japan your great example there is at the end of its 2nd lost decade and about to go under.

            Put another way: the economic growth lessons of the 20th century that you seem so fond of are now painfully irrelevant.

          • Stuart Munro

            All this talk about South Korea and Japan – but no understanding of Meiji or Saemaul Undong – these countries are just straw men for your neo-liberal argument.

            Neo-liberalism is NOT the secret of the tiger economies – they are developmentalist – as was the World Bank before it became a vehicle for neo-liberal ambitions. Developmentalism works – neoliberalism never has, though its perpetrators die rich – or in prison.

            Douglas was completely wrong – a traitor and a crook. Chernomyrdin followed Douglas – both of them are bywords for corruption and the countries they reformed are languishing.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      I believe education is the answer, but it will take hard work and a long time to have an effect.

      Education by itself is not the answer – we also have to create the jobs for that education to shine in. And don’t say entrepreneurialism either. As Ha-Joon Chang points out in 23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism the people in poor countries are massively entrepreneurial (far more than people in rich countries) but it’s not making them rich. He points out that all these wonderfully entrepreneurial people are working individually and not collectively limiting their capabilities. They’re not building the multi-billion dollar factories that they’re quite capable of producing because of the lack of working together.

      As for neo-liberal economics – not one government of either left or right has abandoned the reforms made during those times.

      That would be because they’re stupid and incapable of learning from what’s actually happening in reality. Neo-liberal economics takes us into that economic wasteland that I just described.

      Even Cuba is currently undertaking neoliberal reforms – it had to, just as we had to due to the appalling legacy of Muldoon’s maladministration.

      reform was needed but not the neo-liberal bollocks.

  4. Thing about the so-called “drop in crime” is that crime stats have been trending downward since 1996/97; http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/johnnys-report-card-national-standards-assessment-ye-2012-crime-2/

    As per usual, yawn, the media have failed to pick up on this salient fact. yawnscratchfart

    Why am I not surprised.

  5. Colonial Viper 5

    “Economics” and “political economy” have never been free of patriarchal assumptions and gender biases.

    And unfortunately, they still aren’t.

    Nevertheless the biggest bias is still a simple one: are you a prole, are you a professional enabler of the power elite, or are you part of the power elite itself.

    Sometimes also, it has been claimed that a focus on “culture” and social processes is a diversion from the “real” economic struggle – against poverty etc.

    is it a “claim”, or is it a fact. It’s a fact if it is what actually happened. Like when Bill Clinton championed womens rights including protecting control over their own bodies, he also signed NAFTA for his corporate sponsors and stuck a big knife straight into the back of the American working class. US liberals were kept happy and Democratic at the ballot boxes even as US manufacturing and millions of working Americans were decimated by cheap Mexican labour.

    And that’s just one obvious example.

    Yes, funding for rape support groups came under attack in this neoliberal age but that’s still relatively few dollars here and there when compared to the hundreds of billions in wages and tens of millions of good secure jobs which were moved to China from western nations in the last 20 years.

    • karol 5.1

      You are ignoring many of the complexities of the way that economic and cultural elements are interconnected.

      Left wing feminists (especially during the second wave) were always were both anti-capitalism and anti-sexism/misogyny. Some issues are more economic and some more cultural.

      Many moves of the likes of Clinton and Thatcher et al were damaging to large amounts of women. I’m not that keen on using US egs because there, second wave feminism was more liberal than left.

      The US liberalism was spread around the globe by so-called “neo-liberalism”.

      You really picked one aspect of my post, CV. The atack on rape crisis funding was one example of the ways neoliberalism fractured feminism -attacking the funding, and leaving anti-rape activists struggling more against cultural aspects of rape.

      You ignored the part of my post about the many ways the 2008+ recession began on the backs of women and was particularly damaging to women, socially and economically.

      More of the bit I quoted:

      From the gender-inequality latent in the subprime bubble that precipitated the global economic crisis, to the way in which recessional job-losses played out on gendered lines, followed all too quickly by Conservative ‘austerity’ measures that both pushed women out of the workplace and corroded their rights and benefits, and the cruel little footnote of banks appropriating the new language of ‘regulation’ to arbitrarily deny equal access to women at a time when they need financial independence more than ever, it’s hard not to join the dots. Women disproportionately paid for the trigger of the recession, for the recession’s job losses and other social impacts, and the austerity measures that followed.

      And the offshoring of labour by corporates was particularly damaging to young women int he countries were corproate uses them as cheap labour.

  6. captain hook 6

    the neo right want money and they dont care how they get it. They need it to buy toys and one up their peer group and to buy power to punish anyone who stands in their way. It is just as much psycholgical as anything else. They must have control at all costs even if it means th edestruction of the whole planet just to placate their anxiety. Its a pretty pass and there is no rhyme or reason.
    welcome to the monkey house.

  7. Jrobin 7

    Sorry Person of Interest no one had to follow Neo liberal reforms. Muldoons interventionist policies could be viewed as just the sort of disaster that “disaster capitalism” uses as an excuse to rob the citizens of democracies. Were you being ironic because you make the new right sound like an inevitable step in some pre determined economic evolutionary process. Goodness no wonder the bastards getaway with daylight robbery. There is nothing inevitable about these reforms, but with a captive media and Hollywood sourced distraction machine, the populations seem to be hypnotised into apathy. Employment is also related to corporate priorities which put profit ahead of all other considerations. A green economy would prvide more jobs, as would procurement policies which don’t allow the purchasing of cheap but asbestos ridden railway carriages, to give just one example. Fordist and exploitative attitudes aren’t inevitable they happen when workers are disempowered and voters let governments get away with gradual erosion of democratic rights.

    • Person of Interest 7.1

      I worked in the railways at the time and gave it less than a year before it collapsed if it were in the private sector. Government departments were almost universally uneconomic and inefficient. When the Lange government took over from Maldoom the country was on the verge of bankruptcy and we had no choice but to undertake reform. However, in hindsight things could have been done so as to cause less pain to vulnerable people, but it would have been a damn site more painful to all if NZ had failed economically.
      I think the re-litigation of Labour’s past is most unhelpful, especially to Labour’s election chances.
      I would like to see positive policies developed covering social justice, environmental issues, and sensible economics as these will attract votes whereas carping on about National or trying to resurrect dead philosophies aren’t effective strategies. Capital gains – yes, it will be surprisingly popular provided the family home is exempt. Tax aggregation for couples – yes, it will be fair and help families. Compulsory Kiwi Saver – yes, the Kirk scheme would have seen us right had it not been for Muddledoon. These are good policies, and being good would be popular and would ensure voters new the country would be in safe hands.

    • Stuart Munro 7.2


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