web analytics

“We’re no longer citizens, we’re customers”

Written By: - Date published: 9:51 am, September 23rd, 2016 - 32 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, equality - Tags:

Ann Pettifor, in New Zealand for lectures on the state of the financial world, talks to Nine-to-Noon about its most pressing problems.

The UK economist was one of the few to predict the 2008 GFC, and now says our biggest problems stem from economists and the finance sector to ‘marketise’ society and to “turn us all into customers for everything”.

“We’re no longer citizens, we’re no longer workers, we’re customers, all along the line. And all of our relationships must, they argue, be marketised.


[Those without assets] are getting poorer, because they cannot live on their existing income, because we don’t pay wages or salaries that allow people to live a decent life. So they have to supplement that, with all of these additional marginal activities.

“That’s what’s wrong with the way we have allowed the markets to take control of our economies and for the invisible hand to decide who gets what, is those who are left behind – and the left-behinders voted for Brexit, the left-behinders are voting for Trump, and they’re voting for Le Pen, the fascist in France – we need to worry about that.”

Worth a listen.

Mike Smith advertised Ms Pettifor’s Fabians lecture earlier this week – it may have a podcast on their site soon? (not yet…)  Policy Observatory have an interview with her up too.

32 comments on ““We’re no longer citizens, we’re customers” ”

  1. Ad 1

    We’ve had this descriptive language for interactions for over 30 years. Her observations aren’t new. It’s arguable that – while the ‘customer-service’ language is embedded – it’s nowhere near as strong as it used to be.

    I’m not even sure what good it would do if the old citizen-state interaction language was reinstated, other than to feel like the old implied contract was somehow back in the ether. When it isn’t.

    • Bill 1.1

      Think you’re missing the point Ad. She’s not just referring to language or terminology.

      Let’s go back a bit. Marx condemned the dehumanisation associated with the commodification of labour – ie, the notion that a person’s labour (time and activity) was just something to be bought and sold.

      For the past 30 years or so, we’ve had a creep of that commodification so that more and more human interactions are commodified (made subject to market rules).

      Today we might say we cultivate a culture whereby people are expected to pay top dollar for what we used to give for free. It’s rampant free market b/s, the logical end point of which would see every human interaction attracting a price.

      And people are forced to expand that culture of commodification because the older one – the one that began and ended with a person’s labour in relation to the job they had – just doesn’t come with enough compensation. So to stand still, (so the argument goes) people are desperately monetising just about anything they put their minds to or lay their hands on.

      • Ad 1.1.1

        Oh agreed.
        She’s just not fresh.

        • Paul

          Neo-liberalism is not fresh.
          It is rotten

          • save nz

            Yep the point is that a lot of people are saying the same things, but politicians are not listening. That is why we are having declining voting etc. If politicians do not listen to social cues then that is one reason why in particular the left wing politicians are not doing as well as they should. Or the left wing has become a right wing entity (Blairitism, Rogernomics) and so destroy trust and create disharmony of left ideas and ideals.

            Neoliberalism divides people and creates fear and inequality. Half the population are fearful and voting for it, the other half are mixed and a good percentage not voting mostly because some of the opposite message is the Neoliberal Lite message OR a 20th century socialist message that does not resonate to many.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Neoliberalism divides people and creates fear and inequality.

              Actually, that’s simply capitalism and other capitalist type socio-economic systems. Divide and rule as the saying goes.

      • Incognito 1.1.2

        As the saying goes “if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product”.

        However, it seems to be that the boundary between customer and product has become more diffuse and you can simultaneously be customer and product. Maybe we should call it prodomer, which does not seem to be too far removed from the word “prodrome”, or custduct.

      • Adrian 1.1.3

        @Bill Exactly right in your analysis.
        One of our first steps is to demand of our media, that they stop referring to the citizens of the country as consumers.
        I also believe, the language of the media (all media) and how it frames and defines peoples view of the world and their place in it, is of vital importance.
        Constantly reinforce the image of a person in society as a mere consumer of goods and services, whose greatest achievement would be to find a way to exploit other consumers for capital gain, then by and large that is what you will get.
        Constantly frame and empower that same person as a citizen with valid views and perspectives on the direction and issues of their community, and that one of the greatest achievements they could undertake as a citizen is to participate in building a maintaining a healthy, fair, progressive community, and by and large you will get that result.

  2. TC 2

    Customers is generous, more like schmucks being sold on the illusion that you have a freedom of choice.

    Guardian has a piece on the lost generation based on a recent UK survey. Those without assets, the ability to procure any, living at home etc as the period they have come of age into is lacking the necessary opportunity, services, resources etc.

  3. ianmac 3

    Ann said that the marginalised are looking to the leadership of someone such as Jeremy Corbyn as a possible saviour for the hopeless position that they are in. She thought that if he was eliminated, then the marginalised would turn to the extreme left or extreme right. Trump/Le Pren.
    Meanwhile back here in sleepy old NZ…

  4. And when we work for the large companies, we are classified as “units” , not people.

    The world has gone mad alright.

  5. NZJester 5

    We are not customers, we are indentured servants or serfs.

  6. Takere 6

    As customers…. This National government just can’t stop giving things away that don’t belong to them … NZ’s Wealth & Soe’s & Crown debt (DMO off the books debt -$112bn) now is 54% owned by foreign Investors/Creditors.
    In the earlier part of the 2000’s foreign indebtedness was in the low 30’s. With a bit of off the books account courtesy of Blinglish Accounting Software there’s more!
    -$600bn of residential & rental property “land” values are not included in the inflation calculation either. NZs Nett (Debt) International Positions floating around -$163.3bn/65% of GDP.
    The gift to all kiwi’s from the National Government …. a debt laden future for generations to come ….

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      just write it off.

      • Takere 6.1.1

        Haha! It would be great if “We” did what Iceland did. In less than 5 years, they’re back. But I’m guessing. The owners of the debt would sell it to “Vulture Funds” who arrest , hold onto your assets like what happened to Argentina’s War Ship(s) that were ceased in the US when they were there until a payment was made. Maybe we could collectively put up the wealth of the 283 kiwis with more than $50m as security when it comes to that?

        • Colonial Viper

          It’s just accounting, finally. Just find the right sort of accountant to sort it 🙂

  7. Andrea 7

    In its time ‘citizen’ was just as hollow and soothing as ‘consumer’ or ‘client’ or ‘customer’. No rights at all. Says so in the finest of fine print.

    Perhaps that anodyne label from the medical centres – ‘patient’?

  8. RedLogix 8

    Our relationship with the our rulers and overlords has always been unequal. Whether we called them our master, owner, lord, king, el-presidente … or these days CEO …. the power imbalance was always fraught.

    The notion of ‘equal before the law’ and ‘citizenship’ is in historic terms relatively new. We are still evolving the significance of this.

    Personally I think in another few generations our heritage concepts of leadership will morph into something that has far stronger connotations of ‘responsibility’ to the community. The drama and attraction of power will be replaced with an entirely different mode of leadership that is centred in the idea of service.

  9. keepcalmcarryon 9

    There is value to everything in the known universe.
    Capitialism says that value equals money in every instance yet clearly money is only one measure of value and not always relevant.
    a) Why do we allow the system to perpetuate?
    b) Please solve, showing all working.


    • vto 9.1

      answer: throw the entire world up in the air, let people and things fall randomly where they fall, start again

  10. vto 10

    Do you think John Key would have any depth of understanding about these concepts??

    • vto 11.1

      as opposed to private ones such as

      pike river
      the entire finance sector
      stonewood homes

      shall we do some comparison lists?

      edit: btw, the NY Times wouldn’t be one of the biggest cogs in the US establishment would it? Conflicted much? sheeesh…

  11. mary_a 12

    The dirty neo lib game which began over 30 years ago, was specifically designed to depersonalize the citizenry into compliant consumer commodities, with the sole purpose of serving the wealthy elite of the land.

    Hopefully, Kiwis in particular will wake up soon and take to the streets in acts of civil disobedience and passive resistance, protesting against the manipulating, corrupt, greedy predators, which dominate our socio/economic structure, aided and abetted by crooked cesspit dwelling political vermin, disguised as the peoples’ representatives!

    • Draco T Bastard 12.1


    • Jono 12.2

      I think we will see civil unrest in our time. If inequality continues to divide this nation the people at the bottom will have nothing left to lose. They will fight back once they are pushed into a corner. It happened in France remember…

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Leaders’ Summit on Climate to raise ambition on climate action
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined President Biden at the virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate hosted by the United States overnight. The summit, held for Earth Day, brought world leaders together to galvanise efforts to reduce emissions this decade and keep the shared goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 hour ago
  • Strengthening Trans-Tasman Ties: Australia-New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations
    New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Nanaia Mahuta and Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, met in Wellington today for biannual Australia-New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations. Marise Payne’s visit is the first official visit to New Zealand by Australia since both ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    12 hours ago
  • Deposit taking measures protect financial stability and New Zealanders
    Cabinet has finalised a package of new measures to protect New Zealanders’ interests in the banking and financial system, including guaranteeing deposits of up to $100,000 per eligible institution. These measures, the final part of a comprehensive review of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act, have been the subject ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    18 hours ago
  • Apprenticeship numbers jump in 2020
    The number of apprentices continues to grow, with people from across the community signing up for careers in the trades, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says. Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) for enrolments in tertiary and vocational study as at December 2020 shows that the number of apprentices increased by 17.6 per ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    19 hours ago
  • New Zealand to open new Trade Commission in Fiji
    New Zealand will open a new Trade Commission in Fiji later this year, Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.  “Fiji is New Zealand’s largest trading partner in the Pacific region”, Damien O’Connor said. “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, annual two-way trade between New Zealand and Fiji was ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Building a New Zealand Health Service that works for all New Zealanders
    HON ANDREW LITTLE SPEECH Morena tātau katoa. Tēnā tātau kua karahuihui mai nei i tēnei ata, Ki te whakarewa te rautaki hauora matua o Aotearoa, Kia hua ko te oranga pai o te motu. Tena tatau katoa.   INTRODUCTION Welcome. Today, I am laying out for you a plan to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Major reforms will make healthcare accessible for all NZers
    All DHBs will be replaced by one national organisation, Health New Zealand A new Māori Health Authority will have the power to commission health services, monitor the state of Māori health and develop policy New Public Health Agency will be created Strengthened Ministry of Health will monitor performance and advise ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Minister Henare contribution to speech on Building a New Zealand Health Service that works for all N...
    We talk a lot about being a transformational Government. Some imagine this statement means big infrastructure builds, massive policy commitments all leading up to a single grand reveal. But this is what I see as transformation. Something quite simply and yet so very complex. Māori feeling comfortable and able to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Health reform announcement
    On Wednesday morning, Minister of Health Andrew Little and Associate Minister of Health (Māori) Peeni Henare are announcing major health reforms.  You can watch the announcement live here from 8am Wednesday. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Alpine Fault research supports Government’s work planning and preparing for earthquakes
    New research into the probability of an Alpine Fault rupture reinforces the importance of taking action to plan and prepare for earthquakes, Acting Minister for Emergency Management Kris Faafoi says. Research published by Dr Jamie Howarth of Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington today, shows there is a ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New Zealand to provide further support to UN North Korea sanctions
    Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare today announced that New Zealand is deploying a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft in support of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on North Korea. The Resolutions, adopted unanimously by the UNSC between 2006 and 2017, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Transmission Gully review shows flawed planning process should have been addressed before project st...
    The Transmission Gully Interim Review has found serious flaws at the planning stage of the project, undermining the successful completion of the four-lane motor north of Wellington Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Transport Minister Michael Wood said. Grant Robertson said the review found the public-private partnership (PPP) established under the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Australian Foreign Minister to visit Aotearoa New Zealand
    Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today that Australian Foreign Minister Hon Marise Payne will visit Aotearoa New Zealand for the first face-to-face Foreign Ministers’ Consulations since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “Australia is New Zealand’s closest and most important international partner. I’m very pleased to be able to welcome Hon Marise ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Border exceptions will see more families reunited
    Hundreds more families who were separated by the border closure will be reunited under new border exceptions announced today, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said. “The Government closed the border to everyone but New Zealand citizens and residents, in order to keep COVID-19 out, keep our economy open and keep New ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • “He Taniwha He Tipua, He Tipua He Taniwha – The Dragon and the Taniwha”
    Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Foreign Minister 8.30am, 19 April 2021 [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY] Speech to the NZCC Korihi Pō, Korihi Ao E rongo e turia no Matahau Nō Tū te winiwini, Nō Tū te wanawana Tū Hikitia rā, Tū Hapainga mai Ki te Whai Ao, Ki te Ao Mārama Tihei Mauri ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Backing sustainable wool carpets to create a compelling yarn for New Zealand’s strong wool sector
    The Government is supporting a new project with all-wool New Zealand carpet company, Bremworth, which has its sights on developing more sustainable all-wool carpets and rugs, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced.  The Ministry for Primary Industries is contributing $1.9 million towards Bremworth’s $4.9 million sustainability project through its Sustainable Food ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New Zealand provides support to Timor-Leste for flooding and COVID-19 surge
    New Zealand is providing further support to Timor-Leste following severe flooding and the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today. “Our thoughts are with the people of Timor-Leste who have been impacted by the severe flooding and landslides at a time when the country is ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
    A ceremony has been held today in Gisborne where the unclaimed medals of 28 (Māori) Battalion C Company soldiers were presented to their families.   After the Second World War, returning service personnel needed to apply for their medals and then they would be posted out to them.  While most medals ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Reducing barriers to breastfeeding
    The Government is committed to increasing the number of mothers who breastfeed for longer to give babies born in New Zealand the best start in life. The Ministry of Health recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six month but only about 20 percent of children at this ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • SolarWinds compromise attributed to Russian state actor
    New Zealand has today added its voice to the international condemnation of the malicious compromise and exploitation of the SolarWinds Orion platform. The Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau, Andrew Little, says that New Zealand's international partners have analysed the compromise of the SolarWinds Orion platform and attributed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Queenstown roading project given fast track approval
    An expert consenting panel has approved the Queenstown Arterials Project, which will significantly improve transport links and reduce congestion for locals and visitors in the tourism hotspot.   Environment Minister David Parker welcomed the approval for the project that will construct, operate and maintain a new urban road around Queenstown’s town ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Screen industry secures landmark project
    Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash says a landmark deal has been agreed with Amazon for The Lord of the Rings TV series, currently being filmed in New Zealand. Mr Nash says the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) secures multi-year economic and tourism benefits to New Zealand, outside the screen ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Report into review of health response to lead contamination released
    The Government welcomes the findings from a rapid review into the health system response to lead contamination in Waikouaiti’s drinking water supply. Sample results from the town’s drinking-water supply showed intermittent spikes in lead levels above the maximum acceptable value. The source of the contamination is still under investigation by ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • NZ Upgrade Programme revs up economic recovery
    Transport Minister Michael Wood today marked the start of construction on the New Zealand Upgrade Programme’s Papakura to Drury South project on Auckland’s Southern Motorway, which will create hundreds of jobs and support Auckland’s economic recovery. The SH1 Papakura to Drury South project will give more transport choices by providing ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Speech releasing the Digital Council's report 'Towards Trustworthy and Trusted Automated D...
    CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY  E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karanga maha o te wa, tēnā koutou, tēna koutou, tēna tātou katoa. Ki ngā mana whenua, ko Ngāi Tahu, ko Waitaha, ko Kāti Māmoe  anō nei aku mihi ki a koutou. Nōku te hōnore kia haere mai ki te ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Green light for 10 minute e-bus to Auckland Airport
    Transport Minister Michael Wood today marked the completion of upgrades to State Highway 20B which will give Aucklanders quick electric bus trips to and from the airport. The State Highway 20B Early Improvements project has added new lanes in each direction between Pukaki Creek Bridge and SH20 for buses and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Review into greyhound racing announced
    The Government is putting in place a review of the work being done on animal welfare and safety in the greyhound racing industry, Grant Robertson announced today. “While Greyhound Racing NZ has reported some progress in implementing the recommendations of the Hansen Report, recent incidents show the industry still has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Road safety boosted by increased penalty for mobile use while driving
    The infringement fee for using a mobile phone while driving will increase from $80 to $150 from 30 April 2021 to encourage safer driving, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today. Michael Wood said too many people are still picking up the phone while driving. “Police issued over 40,000 infringement notices ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Pacific mental wellbeing supported across Auckland and Wellington
    Pacific people in New Zealand will be better supported with new mental health and addiction services rolling out across the Auckland and Wellington regions, says Aupito William Sio.  “One size does not fit all when it comes to supporting the mental wellbeing of our Pacific peoples. We need a by ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Fresh approach proposed to Smokefree 2025
    New measures are being proposed to accelerate progress towards becoming a smokefree nation by 2025, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced. “Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke kills around 12 people a day in New Zealand. Recent data tells us New Zealand’s smoking rates continue to decrease, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Govt expands Mana Ake to provide more school-based mental wellbeing support
    More children will be able to access mental wellbeing support with the Government expansion of Mana Ake services to five new District Health Board areas, Health Minister Andrew Little says. The Health Minister made the announcement while visiting Homai School in Counties Manukau alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Record Number of People Move Into Work
    The Government’s COVID-19 response has meant a record number of people moved off a Benefit and into employment in the March Quarter, with 32,880 moving into work in the first three months of 2021. “More people moved into work last quarter than any time since the Ministry of Social Development ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Significant global progress made under Christchurch Call
    A stocktake undertaken by France and New Zealand shows significant global progress under the Christchurch Call towards its goal to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.  The findings of the report released today reinforce the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach, with countries, companies and civil society working together to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New chair of interim TAB NZ Board appointed
    Racing Minister Grant Robertson has announced he is appointing Elizabeth Dawson (Liz) as the Chair of the interim TAB NZ Board. Liz Dawson is an existing Board Director of the interim TAB NZ Board and Chair of the TAB NZ Board Selection Panel and will continue in her role as ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government to phase out live exports by sea
    The Government has announced that the export of livestock by sea will cease following a transition period of up to two years, said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor. “At the heart of our decision is upholding New Zealand’s reputation for high standards of animal welfare. We must stay ahead of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Workshop on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems – opening remarks
    WORKSHOP ON LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS SYSTEMS Wednesday 14 April 2021 MINISTER FOR DISARMAMENT AND ARMS CONTROL OPENING REMARKS Good morning, I am so pleased to be able to join you for part of this workshop, which I’m confident will help us along the path to developing New Zealand’s national policy on ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Inter-prison kapa haka competition launched
    For the first time, all 18 prisons in New Zealand will be invited to participate in an inter-prison kapa haka competition, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis announced today. The 2021 Hōkai Rangi Whakataetae Kapa Haka will see groups prepare and perform kapa haka for experienced judges who visit each prison and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government takes step forward on counter terrorism laws
    The Government has introduced the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill, designed to boost New Zealand's ability to respond to a wider range of terrorist activities. The Bill strengthens New Zealand’s counter-terrorism legislation and ensures that the right legislative tools are available to intervene early and prevent harm. “This is the Government’s first ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Carbon neutral government a step closer
    Coal boiler replacements at a further ten schools, saving an estimated 7,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next ten years Fossil fuel boiler replacements at Southern Institute of Technology and Taranaki DHB, saving nearly 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next ten years Projects to achieve a total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Appointment of Chief Parliamentary Counsel
    Attorney-General David Parker today announced the appointment of Cassie Nicholson as Chief Parliamentary Counsel for a term of five years. The Chief Parliamentary Counsel is the principal advisor and Chief Executive of the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO).  She is responsible for ensuring PCO, which drafts most of New Zealand’s legislation, provides ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago