Posted 17 days ago
While many people assume that deindustrialization is a late-twentieth-century phenomenon, both employment and output in goods-producing industries has been in relative decline for far longer than that. As countries get richer, higher incomes generate greater demand for services while technological advances lead to labor savings in manufacturing processes.
Maisano, through simply reviewing some essays from Göran Therborn, is making a critical argument that many on the Left seem to forget about. Although we lament the deindustrialization of the US, with factories going overseas, there is no magic stick in the capitalist climate to automatically bring those back and pursue factory-based politics just as before.
The industrial proletariat is giving way to the service industry, and the service industry is generally not into the same politics as before. One of Therborne's points though, is that there was never really that strong of an industrial working-class anyways in the United States. He argues that it largely went from agricultural to service based, industrialism being a blip on its long history:
Therborn’s observation is consistent with the fact that service or “tertiary” employment pulled even with US industrial employment as early as the 1840s, and decisively overtook it by the first years of the twentieth century. For decades, service employment grew steadily, while agriculture’s share collapsed from about 20 percent in 1940, to about 3 percent in 1980, to just over 1 percent today.
And to compare service and industry today:
While industry’s share remained relatively constant from the 1940s through the 1960s, and declined a bit in the 1970s, it then began to crumble in the 1980s. Since that decade, industry’s share of total employment has dropped by more than half, from roughly 30 percent to just above 12 percent, while services now account for more than 80 percent.
These numbers could be good indicators of why the United States never really went through similar socialist revolutions as in Europe and other places. There was never a long history of the industrial working class that could really gain control of the economy. Maisano says how farmers and industrial workers banded together in the past, or even had their own separate methods, but today, things look very, very different.
There are times when service workers band together in unions, largely in huge hotel/university/hospital sectors. The other day, even Starbucks workers banded together to try and form a union in New York. But unfortunately, this is not the norm, and whatever politics the Left is going to pursue in the 21st century must take these facts seriously into account.