In contemporary economic
textbooks, the value of any good is nothing more than its prevailing market price. This
definition seems self-evident, but it stands in sharp contrast to the classical
political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who located value in objective
factors of production which remain hidden beneath the surface of market prices.
It was only in the late nineteenth century, when the notion of marginal utility was
first introduced into economics, that value became tied to the preferences of
consumers as reflected in market prices.
categories such as “value”, “market” or “price” are often taken for granted, sociologists have long recognized that they
are neither eternal nor natural. As Marx never tired of emphasizing, economic categories are “theoretical expressions”
of concrete social and economic conditions, and they “show the historic
foundation from which they are abstracted.”
What remains less
clear is how these categories ‘show’ their historic foundations. How are
changes in these foundations – in terms of the economic structure of society and
the specific social location from which they are perceived – registered in the
dominant categories of economic thought?
None of the G20 countries are on
track to combat climate change under the UN 2015 Paris
Agreement, and among them, Canada
stands out as the country with the worst carbon emissions per capita. The Corporate Mapping Project has found out why. Canada’s fossil fuel industry is a
cohesive corporate community driving a ‘new denialist’ story deep into the
federal government and into key institutions such as the University of Calgary.
But we can change that story.
Mapping Project (CMP), hosted by the University of Victoria since
2015, with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – British Columbia as a
key partner, aims at understanding the economic, political and cultural power
of Canada’s fossil fuel industry. As a collaboration between researchers and
activists, the goal of the project is also to develop strategies for fostering
socially just alternatives to fossil fuel.
economic nucleus of Canada’s fossil fuel industry is the Alberta tar sands,
where our findings
show that five large producing companies and two major pipeline companies control most of the action. These
corporations and the pipelines that flow mostly north to south make up a labour
process that is highly capital intensive, and fast becoming more automated
through driverless trucks and the like.
During the recent
government shutdown, approximately 800,000 workers went without pay. Some government workers turned to gig work to make ends meet:
Twitter is filled with stories of workers who began driving for Uber or Lyft
during the shutdown as a stopgap measure.
Government workers are not alone in turning to gig work to make ends meet. The government shutdown is one example of systemic failures that leave many Americans without a safety net. In an ongoing study, I find that people with a disability also turn to gig work to get by. People with disabilities do gig work because they need a flexible job that allows them to stop working when they can no longer work that day, and to take breaks as needed.
In downtown Durham, North
Carolina, a sign commemorates Black Wall Street, a district that once hosted
some of the most prominent businesses owned by African Americans in the city. The
sign is located on a four-block stretch of Parrish Street, which is now
populated by relatively mundane urban eateries, bars, luxury condos, and the
Durham County Board of Elections. But between the late 1800s and 1960s, the
area became known nationwide as a center of black enterprise and upward
The success of Black Wall Street
was all the more striking because it occurred in the U.S. South during the era
of Jim Crow. It was a time of white supremacist ideology, when state and local
laws dictated the separation of blacks from whites in schools, public transportation,
public amenities, and many private businesses. On Parrish Street and in the
neighboring community of Hayti, black residents looked for paths toward
economic advancement despite the hostile historical conditions.
A lawyer and I stepped into a windowless conference room in her ofﬁce building in Washington, D.C., and she reﬂexively closed the door. I had forgotten to restock my tissues and would soon regret that. By then, I had been interviewing American mothers about their work-family conﬂict for several weeks. I asked women I had just met what their bosses said to them when they announced a pregnancy, what their parental leave was like, if they could ever work remotely when a child was sick.
This time, I didn’t get even 20 minutes into the conversation before the woman I was interviewing dissolved in tears.
Work in Progress is a project of the American Sociological Association's Sections on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, Economic Sociology, Labor and Labor Movements, and Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility