Job-readiness programs have become the predominant response to the joblessness and precariousness of the poor. These programs aim to instill within clients the cherished virtue of work. But, as we show in a recent article, they also promote the hallowed virtue of thrift.
We build upon Batya Weinbaum and Amy Bridges’s argument, in their 1976 piece in Monthly Review, that consumption is a form of labor deserving of greater attention. We show that job-readiness programs do not just condition participants to labor, but condition them to this labor of consumption, casting the latter as the most likely path toward mobility. They do not just encourage clients to enter the labor market, but pressure them to endure the daily indignities and insufficient earnings of low-wage work through an embrace of individual austerity.
Job readiness programs, we argue, thus focus on “both sides of the paycheck:” the earning of a paycheck as well as the spending, stretching, and even supplementing of that paycheck.
To develop this argument, we draw from extensive ethnographic fieldwork carried out in two job-readiness programs in Syracuse, New York: Choosing Success and Women of Work. We conceive of these programs as exemplary sites […]
In the United States, delinquent credit lines as a share of both total consumer, auto loan, and credit card debt steadily grew over the last two and half years. Over the same period, residential-mortgage delinquencies rapidly declined, essentially returning to their pre-2007 levels. These divergent trends point to the relative financial security of upper-income and the increasing fragility of lower-income households prior to the pandemic. How are working families in America getting by in the midst of a capitalist crisis unlike any other?
The U.S. remains a deeply polarized country, with a very large racist following for a far-right party, Trump’s Republicans. At the same time, people of color, the working class, women, and youth, the LGBT community, Native Americans, and environmentalists have mobilized at levels not seen since the 1960s — in the Sanders campaign, the Black Lives Matter uprising, the immigrant rights movement, and in so many other ways. We are at a crossroads.
Therefore, it is even more imperative for both the academia and activist communities to interrogate and deconstruct the ideological and ethnic essentialism inherent in analyses of diaspora politics, making visible those efforts that challenge our parochial imagination of transnational social movements. Even social movements purposely mobilised in a local setting could have unintended global impacts, and it is these previously unarticulated transnational lessons that form the radical potential for future activism.