Monday, 31 December 2012

Nudging You Off the Dole Using Head Science


The State loves breaking down working class resistance and the government is no different. Its’ Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) have recently been applying head science to claimants in a trial considered “pioneering” by one liberal newsshoot. It basically involves experimenting with claimants to find the best methods of throwing them off the dole “more quickly” and has its roots in behavioural economics.

BIT, or the ‘Nudge’ Unit, was launched by the Cabinet Office in 2010 and is run by a group of dusty know-it-alls intent on finding ways for “people to make better choices for themselves” and live happily ever after in a land of, well, happily ever after. The Nudge Unit prays to their god Thaler, Richard Thaler —whose surname gives us the noun dollar— an American economist who claimed to have worked out why people make market & investment mistakes and how to not make those mistakes and therefore make more money.

Basically, Thaler and his army think people are stupid and by positive reinforcement, or ‘nudging’, people can be influenced to make better/more-positive actions/decisions. This is why Thaler’s behavioural theory has popped up in the courts of Obama and Cameron, the latter setting up the Nudge Unit that has been bouncing round the country applying Nudge Theory to anything it can get its hands on —including the unemployed.

Government likes to engineer people's lives like it's some fucking giant game of SimCity, so BIT (or the Nudge Unit) have been messing about in Jobcentres seeing if they can ‘save more money’ by fast-tracking the unemployed into work by cutting red tape and subjecting claimants to a “range of different processes”, including getting claimants to write about traumatic events for 10 or 15 minutes every month. Very fucking crafty.

Expressive writing was used by the Nudge Unit in a 3-month trial at 3 jobcentres to apparently “build psychological resilience and well being”. But, by getting claimants to express themselves via trauma, you also gain an insight into a psychological world that would otherwise remain private, no? And what better way to get them a job, any job, by being able to play on their psychology. Seems like it’s less down to building “resilience and well being” and more about suggestion and coercion; and with minimal rights, claimants are the perfect subject to try out these nu-fangled theories without too much resistance.

Behind all the big words and Government backing, Nudge Theory looks and sounds very similar to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which in turn begins to look and sound very similar to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) —the latter being used by Work Programme (WP) providers, such as A4e, to 'motivate' their customers towards behavioural patterns that make the WP Provider cash.

“The results are impressive” claim the Nudge Unit, with 15%-20% of claimants more likely to be kicked off benefits and into no-jobs 13 weeks after signing on. And no fucking wonder, when a team led by doctors and lords have employed psychological coercion to get you to that happy place of work, where dignity and money abound.

What real boils the revolutionary blood is nonsense like:
"Developing new tools which seek the active commitment of jobseekers to engage in specific activities, linked to aspects of their daily routines ('commitment devices'), and offering greater stretch".
Erm, you mean finding new ways to pin down a claimant using otherwise private information? A4e have been at these sorts of 'commitment devices' for years, recently culminating in something called Total Person:
"If you are living in deprivation, with multiple problems preventing you from playing a full part in society, what you need is power, options and advice to solve your own problems. You need a single person who understands you, your family, and the place you grew up; sticks with you in the long term; treats you like a human, not a number; and backs you to build a different future for yourself. We call this approach Total Person."
People get scam emails less sickening than this. Yet, the Government is pouring massive amounts of money into the gullets of these programmes —the impeachment, in some form or another, of the welfare recipient always being the end result.

The objective of Nudge, NLP, Total Person, whatever went before —and used in this way— is to invade the psychology of the individual and open it out to the disciplinary engineering of the government. At the same time, the individual is given ‘technologies of the self’ to do the same job —ultimately, we end up being attacked from within and without; and that makes it all the more important that we fuck the ruling classes & their methods right up!

This is a class war against us, a global proletariat in and out of work, who are barely managing to eke out a living during a new epoch of accumulation that's being touted as Austerity. So, these kinds of behavioural devices used to discipline and manage the workforce must be recognised, ridiculed, and finally killed by fire along with the State.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Court Fines You Workfare!

In October, Conservative toff John Glen stood up in the ‘Commons’ and presented a bill calling for the introduction of forced labour for those who weren’t able to pay court fines.

During the motion, Glen hovered around the ideas of justice and fairness; and of the total outstanding fines ‘owed’ to the magistrate as being “too much” —although Glen thinks “[t]his is not so much an issue of lost monies, but more about how to deliver justice to society.” Eh?

Is it about money? Is it about justice? Glen isn’t arsed, because his real sights are set on the unemployed:
“To my mind, there are two clear cases where unpaid work orders could be a preferable means of payment: first, where the deduction of a fine from benefits would risk serious implications for the well-being of the defendant or their household, or where a deduction from a benefits order request is refused because the benefit cannot statutorily be reduced; and secondly, the small number of cases where the defendants wish to accelerate the payment to preserve their income, especially if they are relying on benefits.”
If you were around in 1662, you would've heard a similar presentation being made by Sir William Petty, who suggests "the substitution of compulsory labour for all penalties, 'which will increase labour and public wealth'".

It’s doubtful whether Glen loses sleep over the “well-being of the defendant”; and it’s a massive assumption that defendants, or anyone, would want to “accelerate” themselves into forced labour.

The Courts Act 2003 already forces people to work off their poverty fines, although a pilot scheme operated throughout 2004-2009 found “unpaid work orders” were only applicable to a small number of people. Glen, though, thinks its time to “look-again” at unpaid work orders and wants to fire-up another pilot…but with a twist. Rather than the probation service supervising the pilot, Glen wants Local Authorities and charities to take on the role:
“Many charities would be willing to supervise an individual if that meant they could benefit from a number of hours of work that are of real benefit to a local community.”
Hang on a second. Charities. Unpaid labour. Now where have we heard that before?

With the recent explosion —and subsequent, ongoing implosion— of workfare charities, Con’ Glen provides another piece of the Conservative’s ideological attack on the unemployed by potentially suckering charities into taking charge of another part of an historical network of social discipline and exploitation. At either end of claimant survival lies a charity waving the workfare stick. Nowhere in the presentation of this bill was there mention of other strata of people who might have to endure unpaid labour as a result of unpayable fines: Glen when straight for those claiming benefits.

If Glen has his way, claimants already threatened with DWP-workfare, who find themselves in-front of the magistrate, could also be looking at MoJ-workfare.

These are fucked-up times. Just this week we had some bonehead in the Commons trying to introduce income management for claimants by-way-of welfare cash cards; and then earlier in the year Con Glen is trying to expand, encourage and normalise forced labour as a punishment for the unemployed upended by the Ministry of Justice. 

Every Body is being dragged into the net of exploitation —a hydra of modern accumulation leaving no part of the fabric of society unturned as it readjusts and restructures itself post -crisis. And this attack on our welfare is merely a smaller part of a class assault that’s trans-national in scale. All struggles are now inter-woven and collectively we need to start kicking the living shit out of exploiters going about their daily routine as if it’s business as usual. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

War, Welfare and the National Health Service

Beveridge? No Thanks.

Excerpt from The Breakdown of Welfare (Anarchy in Action by Colin Ward, 1973)

“The connection between welfare and warfare is in fact very close. Until late in the nineteenth century the state conducted its wars with professional soldiers and mercenaries, but the scale and scope of wars forced states to pay more and more attention to the physical quality of recruits, whether volunteers or conscripts, and the discovery that so large a proportion of the eligible cannon-fodder was physically unfit (a discovery it has made afresh with every war of the last hundred years) led the state to take measures for improving the physical health of the nation. Richard Titmuss remarks in his essay on War and Social Policy that 'It was the South African War, not one of the notable wars in human history to change the affairs of men, that touched off the personal health movement which eventually led to the National Health Service in 1948.’”

“With the extension of warfare to the civilian population, the need to maintain morale by the formulation of 'peace aims' and the general feeling of guilt over past social injustices and of resolution to do better in future which war engenders, the concern over physical health extended to a wider field of social well-being. The 'wartime trends towards universalising public provision for certain basic needs', as Titmuss says, 'mean in effect that a social system must be so organised as to enable all citizens (and not only soldiers) to learn what to make of their lives in peacetime. In this context, the Education Act of 1944 becomes intelligible; so does the Beveridge Report of 1942 and the National Insurance, Family Allowances and National Service Acts. All these measures of social policy were in part an expression of the needs of war-time strategy to fuse and unify the conditions of life of civilians and non-civilians alike."

"His sardonic conclusion is that 'The aims and content of social policy, both in peace and war, are thus determined at least to a substantial extent - by how far the co-operation of the masses is essential to the successful prosecution of war.'”

Saturday, 1 December 2012

International Day of Persons with Disabilities Trashed by the ConDem Workfare Clan

Monday 3rd of December is International Persons with Disabilities Day[i], organised by the United Nations Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD). By decree of the Department for Work & Pensions[ii], this is the day sick and disabled people in the UK will face the possibility of forced unpaid labour (workfare) or lose their entitlement to benefits.[iii]

The virulent web of workfare spat out of successive governments’ spin-machines reaches ever-more disturbing heights that plunge human beings into an ever-more precarious existence.

As Capitalism restructures its ailing skeleton, it is sweeping up everyone who can be exploited in its path; squeezing out every last bit of labour from our already shackled torsos; and vilifying anyone who dares to access welfare, in order for welfare’s scarcely social objective to collapse.

Underneath the collapse, Capitalism is consuming the infrastructure of welfare and transforming it into private venture. Government looks on with a greedy smile as its ideology is fulfilled, along with its coffers, ears closed to our voices sinking in a poverty shed by the richest classes.

On Monday 3rd of December we should be retaliating against this no-ones government and sending a clear message that we’re not gonna’ be fucked with. That’s what International Day of Persons with Disabilities should be about, and not some drab UN convention-celebration[iv] that, along with all the other conventions on our ‘rights’, mocks us as human beings.

Communication blockade Esther McVey, Minister for Disabled People, for doing fuck all to prevent the introduction of workfare for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants: