Private Property Advisor

The motivation for being a private property advisor comes from my own experience. I know that it’s hard to find someone for a room/flat or to deal with the viewings. I also know that it’s hard to find a property and decide which one best suits you – because unless you live there, it may look nice, but what if you’re missing a detail? What if you don’t ask something because you’re too excited to move into a new home? I’ve moved houses a lot in Aberdeen and I had to deal with a great number of individuals.

After I took two wrong decisions that ended up in two uncomfortable years, I decided that housing is not that easy and I would’ve needed help, so I’m sure others do too.

Job Description

I am charging set fees rather than percentages of rent. I am charging dependent on clients’ status – three categories: landlords, professionals (full-time workers), and students. The reason behind different charges is due to each category having different types of income.

Fine print available on each poster.

These are the fees for landlords:

FEES landlord

These are the fees for professionals (full-time workers):FEES professionals

These are the fees for students:FEES students

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Marx’s communism in a capitalist society? A Western analysis

Introduction

What everyone would agree on is that Marx discusses social classes, class struggle, revolution, and therefore peace and economic equality. The most significant conflict stands between the working class (proletariat) and the rich (bourgeoisie) because the first executes jobs on minimum reimbursement (monetary or otherwise), while the latter enjoys the benefits of owning means of production and the profit. This article will convey a brief assessment on whether Marx’s ‘instructions’ are currently applicable for the West and, if not, why. The assessment will be done by looking at the changes in the social systems. The reason for focusing on the Western World is because evaluating this book to a global level would implicate a complexity that a single essay could not cover. So, Marx and Engels write a clear 10-points instruction list, directing the system to what changes it would need, asking the proletariat to take the actions.

What are today’s social classes?

To begin with, the key to understanding the relations between people is, according to Marx and Engels, class structure (Giddens and Held, 1982: 12-39). However, the “classes are a creation of history” (Held, 2006) and thus it is essential that we note the changes that affected our West since Marx’s categorisation. We no longer look at a singular society. We encounter pluralism since the ease movement of people developed enough to generate mass-migration and individuals’ stabilisation in the country of destination. Therefore, migrants today are rather called ‘foreigners’, and there is no stigma attached to one’s status in a country. Equal access to jobs is a fundamental policy as well. Non-discriminatory laws are put in place and taken very seriously in all states too. It can be argued that there is no longer an unbreakable correlation between identity and nationality (Bauman, 2011: 36). Roughly, one can claim that being a foreigner is no different from being a native regarding access, treatment, or capital reimbursement. However, being a foreigner makes a big difference when analysing cultural values. Although the West hybridised itself (cultures mixing, resulting in an amalgam of practices and mutual understandings), the micro-level analysis shows significant differences regarding understanding. Having thought on how Marx split the society and assessing the argument above, we are looking at four social classes: migrant/foreigner: working-class or wealthy. However, these classes do not satisfy my analysis enough.

I have previously argued that the West would be split into ten social classes: unemployed minorities and nationals, poor blue collar working minorities and nationals, higher blue collar working minorities and nationals, white collar working minorities and nationals, and high-class minorities and nationals. The blue collar working class is split in poor and less poor because the first refers to individuals working in sanitation services and services like cleaning, while the latter refers to manual labour in construction or better-paid labouring jobs. The latter category, high-class, refers to families who inherit their economic and social status (commonly known as VIPs) (Bucur, 2018). Considering this categorisation, it is somewhat hard to establish what Marx called a common goal. It can be justly claimed that lower classes will opt for improvements in the economic system, but immigrants’ classes are likely to look more at the political standards and their ease of movement, leaving the economic standard as a second interest. Moreover, the West is highly individualistic. Customization is everywhere: jobs, laws, social norms. Therefore a classes’ goal would rather be one person’s goal and the other person’s goal – making the whole trial to satisfy every need complex and almost impossible (see Bauman, 2011: 71-95).

Differences in understanding and individuals’ self-assessment are problematic concepts that we must relate to when assessing each of Marx’s instruction points. Therefore, the arguments that will follow are looking at the present factors.

What cannot be executed

Firstly, Marx suggests the abolition of private property in the sense that land should be rented, not owned (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33). This action supposes that the State would own the country’s land and rent it to the population according to its needs. The system should work in a way in which every person would have enough economic capital to afford it, which would mean an evenly distributed economic capital that comes from the State. It is, indeed, a theory. Afterwards, he proposes a “centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34), that is, deducible, public and industrial transport and communication. Marx’s indication is inexecutable because of democratisation in a consumerist age where corporations own more than any state. Marx’s next suggestion was the extension of industrialisation owned by the State, i.e. “factories and instruments of production” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34).

Almost the same arguments can be made for these three points. The West is governed by mass consumption factors, which lead to corporations owning more than any State does. Privatization has been established to the point where companies and wealthy individuals own almost all the land and properties. The democratic systems of Western countries do not allow States to interfere or change private properties to public service. To clarify: democracy means the rule of law (rationalisation, secularisation). It refers to the freedom of speech, freedom to form associations, enjoyment of underlying economic, social, and political rights of all citizens. It also refers to the equitable distribution of wealth, income, and resources, restraining privileges of elites, the right to dissent and choosing alternatives, and security for minorities in a pluralist society (Singh, 2005: 99). Multiple States own properties, give housing benefits or provide public housing that is all accessible by individuals with small economic capital or unemployed. An exact application of the first ‘instruction’ in The Communist Manifesto is currently impossible. A way around it has already been established. Therefore we can conclude that Marx’s point was viable, and the system shows consideration to renting land rather than owning, but only to the extent to which democracy lets it.

Following the same argumentative logic, no State could rightfully municipalize the means of communication and transportation. Companies of logistics can be both private and national in the Capitalist West. Globalisation also brought the possibility of international business which means that there is no industrial activity at a national level only. Companies can conduct businesses in any country and consequently use their means of communication and transport. For example, corporations like Vodafone or EE/Orange will never ‘surrender’ their wealth in a country to that State. However, the idea itself is applicable. Shutting down all communication and transport companies would trigger a massive economic breakdown, but it can theoretically be done. After that, each State could launch their systems and have a contract, or an international business plan to ensure that migration will not be affected. Excluding the possibility of a brand new economic depression, centralising the means of communication and transport could be an option. I will argue that it would not be profitable for the world, nor for the States which should then solve the economic tragedies. The same argument can contradict Marx’s proposition to “[extending] factories and instruments of production owned by the State…” (Marx and Engels, 2015:34). For this extension to be possible, the State should own the larger part of the industry, which stands against the capitalist fact of privatisation being the core of the economy. However, the latter idea that he gives in the same ‘instruction’ point is roughly applied. He talks about “…the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34), which I can pinpoint to matters such as recycling and environmental care.

After these debated ideas, the fourth point is that of “confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33). This phase is conceptually impossible in the present capitalist West, and its argument is highly sophisticated and would need an article on its own. As explained in the previous paragraphs, democracy and freedom of movement and globalisation and multiculturalism make the enforcement of a law that denies emigration rights impossible. So long as immigration is well-seen and embraced, emigration must have the same status: clear. If one leaves their country, their properties are kept in their name. They do not contribute to the country’s taxation system, but they are taxed in the country of destination. Moreover, owned property is taxed, that means that no matter where you are if you own something in a country, then you will pay for that. Moreover, the sole idea of confiscating property stands against the capitalist freedom. In Marx’s time, when emigration was stigmatised, and rebellion was a daily issue, the idea of confiscation would have helped in the sense that individuals would remain in their countries and pay their dues.

Rebellion today is changed as well. Unfortunately, freedom is a blade cutting both sides that gave way to extreme liberalism. Regardless if one opposes a particular political issue, political system, a way of thinking or personal choice, the rebels are nothing more than liberals in the present West. I will argue that this extreme liberalism is adding contradiction to the world. Rights have been both expanded and chained. Individuals are told about freedom, yet through this movement, they are also being told what to think and socially obliged to behave and speak in different ways (see contemporary fundamentalism, Bucur, 2018). We see us having the right to be different and indifferent to difference. However, it is highly relevant to note that although the right to difference is given, the right to indifference is taken off “by those very people who give this right [i.e. to difference] to others” (Bauman, 2011: 59). Therefore, resuming to the principal argument, the confiscation of property from migrants and rebels would be slightly illegal today and thus Marx’s point cannot be applied, and no changes can be made for it to be applied. Evacuation of all immigrants and changing liberal views are impossible so long as these ‘rebels’ (liberals) are covered through the freedom of speech (which yes, they break by telling everyone what to think and say, but that would be a different discussion).

What could be executed

Another point on Marx’s list is the abolition of “all right of inheritance” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33). In the previous paragraphs, I named a class ‘high-class’ for the sole reason that they inherit their wealth and social status. To apply the latter proposition, the State should confiscate all the wealth of those families who inherit it. These actions mean not only break the concept of capitalism itself but would mean undermining that family’s long-time work to gain the wealth. Undebatable, not all families worked for their wealth, some had confiscated it from others in times when it was possible to do so. For example, in undeveloped countries today, families that are part of the government are corrupt enough and ensure wealth for themselves – therefore their children will inherit wealth that is not their at its roots so that one could abolish the right to inherit in this situation. However, the main issue would have a transparent enough legal body. This institution would follow the line of corruption, taking families’ unfairly gained wealth and transfer this capital to the uncorrupted parts of the State. Usually, this unfairly gained wealth would belong to all the people of a country. Typically, the corruption system operates by raising taxes and hiring low-charging or family-owned companies for different jobs and keeping the difference in fees. Marx’s suggestion would be half-way applicable. Abolish the right of inheritance for those who did not acquire the wealth legally while not undermining the freedom of others who inherit family businesses for which someone worked long-time and hard.

Marx also suggests the “combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34). The proposal would refer to the merge between agriculture and industrialisation in such a way that the latter would not require individuals to move to cities so that the population concentration would be even on the territory. Because today we no longer see agriculture as separate, rather marketisation has taken over it, and there are companies of agriculture rather than the early individual business, we can say that the combination is established. Countries in the West still have local agriculture and local farms, but due to globalisation, the tendency today is finding products on the market that are grown in industrial weight and conditions, while fewer and fewer people grow for sale and only a few practice agriculture for their consumption. Nevertheless, the shift from rural areas to the city is still evolving. The reason for this migration is still industry-related since individuals today travel to cities for higher education (that leads to better jobs) and for better-paid jobs. The “equable distribution” today is far from being established. In Western developed countries, fewer and fewer individuals live in rural areas. To give brief statistical support from the World Bank, the UK rates 17% rural inhabitants, Sweden 14%, Germany 24%. On the other hand, undeveloped countries have more rural inhabitants, Romania rates 45%, Lithuania 33%, Bulgaria 26%. Even so, the differences are not as high as one would think. The USA has 18% of its population stabilised in rural areas. As a general commentary, this point is partially applied and applicable. A way to equally distributing population would be the better development of rural areas regarding school systems and jobs, roughly meaning the transformation of rural areas to look and function more and more as cities do. Regardless, this solution would tightly depend on each country and its economic situation, investment power.

What has been executed

We need to look at the highest developed countries, and we will know how Marx’s instruction point is beneficial. Income is in rapport with the job, white collar workers have a higher salary than the blue-collar workers, and taxation is itself in rapport to one’s income. “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33) is what less developed countries in the West are bound to establish as law. One cannot argue to the contrary. Not a single issue should rise from this point. It can be said that, individually, rich people would rather not pay more in favour of the less fortunate having better healthcare (as an example), but on a socio-political level this is a great idea and should be put in practice everywhere. Another argument in favour of this idea is that migrants have poorer classes and richer individuals as well. Thus, no native should be opposing graduated taxes because he/she would pay for the less fortunate foreigners. Therefore, this step is fully applicable and would be a benefit for the whole West if every country would enforce it. Alike is the fifth point of Marx’s list that of “Centralization of credit in the hands of the State using a national bank with State capital and exclusive monopoly” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 33). This system is the way each country functions today. Moreover, having the European Union, we see an even more significant monopoly that is the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Marx has seen a right path when saying this. Apparently, this system has its troubles and issues arise from IMF and each country’s National Bank, but the general idea, when put in practice, is somewhat better than not having this type of economic centralisation. Thus, this point shall no longer be debated.

Marx is also saying that the proletariat needs “equal liability of all labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture”. His proposal refers to equalising security of all jobs by having a group of people who stand for their rights in this sense. It refers to what we call now a syndicate. He argues for agriculture since that was the main occupation, but we do see these organisations today, and they fight for the workers’ rights within companies. A syndicate operates, usually, in a certain field, e.g. accountants or dentists, and mediates the relationship between employers and workers so that both sides are happy, tending to protect and argue for workers’ benefits more than the other way around. Therefore, I can argue that Marx’s “industrial armies” have been established in our capitalist West and are flourishing in gaining workers’ rights.

Then, The Communist Manifesto proposes that there should be “free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c., &c.” (Marx and Engels, 2015: 34). Marx’s ‘instruction’ has been partially enforced. Children in the West are forbidden labour and encouraged to education, most countries having compulsory education for a set number of years. Children can also opt for industrial schooling, i.e. machine operating, sewing while they can also opt for academic-oriented schools which then lead to further educational options such as colleges and universities. Since there is no specification, one can assume that in saying “children” Marx refers to individuals around 13 years old. The world today sees great improvement and education is attainable by almost all social classes.

Conclusion

“Class divisions arise only when a surplus is generated, such that it becomes possible for a class of non-producers to live off the productive activity of others” (Held, 2006). Contradicting the system of profit is impossible in a capitalist society, thus Held referring to Marx’s theory is incorrect in saying that “…in the future, they [classes] will disappear” (2006). The simple freedom of ownership contradicts class abolition. What capitalism enforces is, on the other hand, equality of ownership and a slight meritocratic system to capital distribution. Moreover, through the logic of all arguments in this article, we can claim that The Communist Manifesto is both inapplicable and applied. We can stretch two of them to become a reality, and the actions could lead to prosperity. Those not applicable are tightly related to the fact that capitalism is strongly rooted in the West and changes to that may lead to economic and political destruction. Also, one can argue that the sole reason for democracy in some countries is to avoid Communism (take Romanian or Bulgarian1989 revolution). If the West as we live in now would leave its guard down, diminish political tension, and diminish the extreme liberalism, order and fairness could be easily enforced. Education, jobs, and wealth, in general, could be part of a meritocratic system. The transparent body against corruption could be a viable possibility if the West would become politically trustworthy in the eyes of the population. In a sense, globalisation and modernity are a “ready-made package” that closely resembles the Marxist idea of a world market (Pieterse, 1995: 46)

I can argue that part of our Capitalism stands on some points made by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto and that communism stands for equality and municipalization. However, a full establishment of the manifest would be impossible. Equality is legally established throughout countries of the West. Nonetheless, globalisation brings and means migration, stabilisation, international economic support, bureaucracy, marketisation, corporations, and most importantly freedom of choice and expression along with liberalism. Moreover, these are rooted in our world enough not ever to allow municipalization.

 

 

Bibliography

Bauman, Z. 2011. ‘Culture from nation-building to globalization’ and ‘Culture in a world of diasporas’, Culture in a Liquid Modern World, pp. 32-70. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bucur, A. 2018. 1. ‘Social Classes. The Western Contemporary Situation’ https://bit.ly/2qdnRjz .

Bucur, A. 2018. 2. ‘Liberal fundamentalism: a contemporary paradox’ https://bit.ly/2GLfAhe .

Held, D. 2006. ‘Direct Democracy and the End of Politics’, Models of Democracy, pp.96-120. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Marx, K. and Engels, F. 2015. The Communist Manifesto. UK: Penguin Random House

Pieterse, J. N. 1995. ‘Globalisation and Modernity’ in Featherstone, M., Lash, S., and Robertson, R. 1995. Global Modernities, pp. 46-49. London: SAGE Publications.

Singh, K. 2005. ‘Globalisation of Democracy’, Questioning Globalisation, pp. 101-104. London: Zed Books.

World Bank. 2016. ‘Rural population (% of population)’ https://bit.ly/2E9ihHe .

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Liberal fundamentalism: a contemporary paradox

Fundamentalism is defined in two ways. “A form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture” (Oxford Dictionary) or as the “strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline” (Oxford Dictionary). This difference in definitions comes from the two perspectives: religious and secular. Fundamentalism does not have two meanings. Fundamentalism means one person’s or a group’s continuous attempts to impose opinions and own beliefs on others.

I will argue that secular fundamentalism (i.e. not regarding a religion) is seen in our daily life. I refer to the extreme liberals and supporters of a political correctness that is taken too far. These people and organizations promote what is ‘right’ and try to force their perspectives on the rest of the West. They try to establish ways of thinking and certain behaviours and vocabularies through social media, blog posts, articles, news.

On the other hand, these individuals and organizations impose what can be talked about and what not, which means that liberal fundamentalists suggest breaking freedom of speech. But it is because of freedom of speech that they are freely operating. Fortunately, they only suggest it (i.e. the breaking), there is yet no action against those who do not follow their beliefs.

The difference between these liberal fundamentalists and the fundamentalism that the West fears is that the latter chooses violent acts. There is not the difference of religious/spiritual inclination, because some of these organizations claim to have spiritual implications – see the 5th example.

Let me exemplify what sort of liberalism I am referring to. And not the concept of these issues. I am referring to all the Facebook and Instagram pages, Twitter accounts,  Tumblr posts, and all the other means of communication where these people comment and post rather unfortunate content. Obviously, like the movement of vegetarians/vegans, not every individual is taking their matter too far, but the majority does (70% over, not 50%+1). I don’t mean to undermine whatever these people have going on. I am not trying to say that they shouldn’t have rights or anything along those lines. I am saying that the West has gone too far. And while the West shouts at fundamentalism, it practices it. Ironic.

Click on each to be sent to the source (new tab opening). And to counteract your thought after seeing the sources: no, they are not bad sources! I mean, they are not academic, and they have questionable ownership. But they are real-world published news. And a lot more people than you want to admit take them into consideration.

  1. ASEE Says that “Biological sex is considered deeply problematic and should *never* be used. It has become a weaponized term used politically against the trans community, and is inherently incoherent when discussing transgender people. In general, when an individual uses this, they *mean* to say, “sex/gender assigned at birth.”
  2. GLAAD claims that it is problematic to speak like: “biologically male,” “biologically female,” “genetically male,” “genetically female,” “born a man,” “born a woman” but better to speak with  “assigned male at birth,” “assigned female at birth” or “designated male at birth,” “designated female at birth”.
  3. BBC tells us to call everyone in plural form…  Using the appropriate pronouns when talking to someone who is transgender works on the basis of respect for the individual. Generally the name the person chooses to use indicates their gender preference. So, a transgender person called Steve would be referred to as “he”, while another called Rachel would be “she”. But if you are unsure, it’s best to ask the person politely how they wish to be known.  This is especially so if you suspect someone identifies as non-binary, in which case a neutral term like “they” may be more appropriate.
  4. Although not an official university policy (YET), FOX News quotes  “For all you folks who went to school back when there were only him and her – here’s a primer: some of the new gender neutral pronouns are ze, hir, zir, xe, xem and xyr”.
  5. And for the last piece: psychology is at fault for ‘ruining the lives’ of people who identify as animals. And this is Cambridge University research. “modern psychiatry and psychology have not been able to keep up-to-date with new post-human perceptions, which have been unable to admit the problems of distinguishing between a phenomenological symptom and a voluntary behaviour, … Feijó proposes: Following the struggles of those who have seen themselves excluded from mankind, it might be time to ask if the diagnosis didn’t have the wrong focus all along: in the 20th century. Perhaps it could be said that humanity itself is a case of species dysphoria?””.  Spiritual implications for this here: “While the online communities of spiritual Therianthropy and the Otherkin are recent phenomena, the historical antecedents of beings that are part-human but also possessed features of the animal world or of mythological and legendary creatures go back many centuries”/” in the late 1960s to early 1970s is the earliest recorded case of  Tolkien-based spirituality and also of groups claiming to be other-than-human in a supernatural fashion.”

 

 

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Social Classes: The Western Contemporary Situation

I have written the article on social mobility a couple of days ago and I realised that Social Classes should have their own part of this website. I have gathered a short explanation and have structured a list to emphasize what social classes are active today.

We no longer live in simple times when we’d look at a lower, middle, and high class. Marx was lucky to split people in categories, then label them with different goals, and vouch that revolution is the way to go forward. Firstly, this world is itself no longer what Marx knew. Secondly, the world now is far from being singular. We are living in a plural, migrative West. ‘Foreigners’ are a big part of every country and migration has no stigma attached anymore. In theory, there is equal access to jobs and each country has non-discriminatory laws in place.  Roughly, one can argue that the West accepts everyone in the same way, no matter where they are from.

But being a foreigner is very important when analysing cultural values. Even though the West is hybrid (cultures mixed together, ‘glocalisation’ – see Robertson 1997), the micro-level analysis tells us about differences in understanding, behaving in different situations, actions being taken differently, perspectives on the quality of life differ as well, etc. And although the West ‘pushes’ for equality in all sorts of ways, we must split the population in a way because we need to give ourselves the means to analyse people’s purposes and eventually see through to improving living standards.

I have previously claimed that the West is split in:

  1. unemployed minorities and nationals,
  2. poor blue collar working minorities and nationals,
  3. higher blue collar working minorities and nationals,
  4. white collar working minorities and nationals, and
  5. high-class minorities and nationals.

As I argued, the blue collar working class is split in poor and less poor because the first refers to individuals working in sanitation services and services like cleaning, while the latter refers to manual labour in construction or better-paid labouring jobs. The latter category, high-class, refers to families who inherit their economic and social status.

This categorisation should satisfy the current western world and therefore one can see how we are all so different from each other and we all live in different ‘boxes’ within the same system.

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On Social Mobility and Meritocracy: articles review with a contemporary assessment

Meritocracy is strictly dependent on social mobility since it means that individuals would be rewarded according to their achievements rather than background or economic possibilities. But having a brief overview of the society today, social classes are rather changed since Marx labelled them, and although we still refer to working classes and high classes, we are living in a rather more complex world. The classes today are split by ten different definitions within any given country. To enumerate, unemployed minorities and nationals, poor blue collar working minorities and nationals, higher blue collar working minorities and nationals, white collar working minorities and nationals, and high-class minorities and nationals. The blue collar working class is split in poor and less poor because the first refers to individuals working in sanitation services and services like cleaning, while the latter refers to manual labour in construction or better-paid labouring jobs. The latter category, high-class, refers to families who inherit their economic and social status. The reason why each category is split into minorities and nationals is due to the high levels of migration and globalisation which although effects ease movement it also divides countries in different ways of working and spending, every-day life practices, views on income i.e. for a national income may seem low in a job, but for a minority high in the same job, etc.

Having said this, it is by far visible that access to meritocratic systems is complicated since not all classes receive the same treatment. Depending on where one lives (geographic location), depending on which class one is part of, and depending on their networking (which is dependent on the aforementioned), one has certain information he/she can access. Therefore, it is hard to admit that meritocratic systems are in place for everyone, but rather they may exist for white collar working classes and minority working classes and the two high classes (minority and non-minority). Social mobility has been and still is important to social science since it is one of the most influential features of the world. Thus, many scholars have been trying to assess the situation in all periods of time and this article will review the work of Philip Brown Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion: Some Observations on Recent Trends in Education, Employment and the Labour Market from 1995 and John Goldthorpe’s work The Myth of Education-Based Meritocracy: Why the theory isn’t working from 2003, followed by a brief conclusion that will link the information in the two articles to a present situation.

Philip Brown: Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion: Some Observations on Recent Trends in Education, Employment and the Labour Market 1995

The author splits his work in seven meaningful subtitles that will conclude that “the role of the state has increasingly become one of manufacturing the conditions in which market forces operate freely, rather than that of pursuing a liberal-democratic policy of ‘equality of opportunity’” and that “the middle classes remain in the ascendancy in the competition for a livelihood”. The overall points suggest that the middle class cultural capital that is needed for bureaucratic jobs is losing value because of the credential inflation. Also, there is an increase in corporate restructuring, marketisation of public services, and a high rate of unemployment. Therefore, the competition for a standard livelihood has increased in the 1990s and thus the class conflict increased as well. In 1995, Brown claims that there still is an extended privilege to family members and that the situation is more of social inequality rather than meritocracy.

His arguments are rooted in previous literature, including a short statistical part. He begins by explaining the technocratic and social exclusion theories. The first refers to the increase in higher education requirements due to the increased demand for scientific and technical jobs. Brown then quotes Kerr et al (1973) saying that “Industrialisation calls for flexibility and competition; it is against tradition and status based upon family, class, religion, race, or caste” (1973: 53) which should mean that industrialisation brought high rates of social mobility and the meritocratic system is in place disfavouring the privilege, supplying the demanded careers with skilled individuals that are objectively elected. Continuing to argue for meritocracy, he then explains that the social exclusion theory shifted from ‘collectivist’ (by class) to ‘individualist’, that there is equality in the eyes of the law, that the “entry in elite groups is, at least in principle, attainable by all through an ‘open’ competition for credentials”. P. Brown refers then to Collins (1979) who defines that there is a changing relationship between education and occupational stratification that should be understood in terms of group conflict over scarce resources (degrees, income, status). But considering that theory differs from what practically exists, Brown also argues in the following chapters that the theories are incomplete because they do not operate alone, but in a complex system of social existence: they are dependent and changing with the academic performance and the employer’s definitions of ‘acceptability’.

Therefore, in the article Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion: Some Observations on Recent Trends in Education, Employment and the Labour Market, the author underlines that there is an increased emphasis on academic credentials since the faith in career advancement and long-term employment declines along with the value of organizational assets. Then, Philip Brown argues that the mass-system education solves the issue of access for working in middle-class families, that there is a high competition in acquiring credentials and that employers find it more and more difficult to ‘absorb’ the large number of highly educated graduates. Therefore, Philip claims, employers start to recruit graduates for jobs that did not previously require degrees, in quoting Hirsch (1977: 50) there is an “excess of qualified candidates”. The author sees an issue coming from the fact that employers seek new ways of differentiating applicants, thus managerial qualities assume elements of personal charisma: “the ‘rule of entry’… become[s] increasingly ‘personalized’”. In this situation, Brown sees that the ideology of meritocracy is long lost in the favour of what himself in 1990 called the ‘ideology of parentocracy’. That is, individuals compete not only for degrees, but for attending elite universities. It is then explained that the access to capital for scarce credentials and charismatic qualities depend on market power and that the education system cannot improve prospects for disadvantaged students i.e. poor background. Therefore, “This is clearly an example of social gifts being translated into natural gifts” (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977), meaning that meritocracy seems to have failed since obtaining a degree from an elite university firstly supposes having the means to reaching the elite university i.e. prosper economic situation that is mostly defining white collar working classes and higher classes.

Overall the article tried to structure arguments that defy previous theories. Philip Brown claims through his work that there is no sign of meritocracy, that increased number of educational programmes will not lead to it as long they (universities) operate on a ‘user-pays’ system. Therefore, Brown concludes that education and thus the occupational status is dependent on the family’s economic situation, meaning that “some of the middle-class are more equal than others in the ability to exert market power”.

John Goldthorpe: The Myth of Education-Based Meritocracy: Why the theory isn’t working 2003

Goldthorpe’s article is a clear analysis of the relationship between class origin, class destination and education. The article has a couple of paragraphs for each said topic, concluding that “the guarantee of steadily increasing class mobility that the theory of education-based meritocracy might appear to offer proves to be illusory”. With clear arguments and three figures (graphs), Goldthorpe introduces meritocracy by saying that the relationship between class origin and educational attainment should weaken in favour of educational attainment and class destination, with a disappearing link between class origin and class destination. Roughly meaning that no matter where you come from and what your background is, with education, you can be anywhere in the societal hierarchy. But the article questions the theory as well.

Goldthorpe claims that “it would be nice if it [meritocracy] were true but, in fact, there is no clear consistent evidence that education-based meritocracies are actually being realised in modern societies”. Through statistical data, he argues that the children of the working class are more risk-averse than the children with privileged backgrounds, meaning that the differences in security and stability of parental income and income prospects are substantial between the classes. Moreover, the author sees how the take-up opportunities i.e. the chances of a working-class child starting university, stand against meritocracy because they lack information on the programs. Lower-classes children, minorities’ classes and blue collar working class children have little knowledge about the availability of degrees or availability of funding, fact which diminishes the number of bright students who could access elite universities.

The article The Myth of Education-Based Meritocracy: Why the theory isn’t working states that “education does indeed make a good deal of difference”, but that it also has less effect on class of destination for individuals in the more recent generations than the earlier ones, which opposes what the theory of education-based meritocracy would predict. Goldthorpe argued using statistical data and rational analysis that meritocracy is indeed a myth.

Conclusion

The reviewed articles have the same conclusion: meritocracy is not a working system and the various factors that affect access to education are based on privilege. The educational system itself is meritocratic, in the sense that individuals remain anonymous until after their work is marked and there are internal policies to assure equality between students. Almost all the universities have put a non-discriminatory policy in place and discriminatory behaviour should have a great effect on one’s degree. Moreover, almost all universities are ‘international’ in the sense that they are open to everyone from everywhere. It does seem to be a meritocratic system.

But the universities, as Brown was arguing, are working on a user-pays rule, which means the openness stands for those who could afford the price. And the better the university, the higher the prices. In the same time, employers for white collar jobs are looking for elite universities’ graduates, which means for the individuals who could afford to pay more for their studies. Which is what Goldthorpe says, that class origin is still tightly related to the class destination. But on the other hand, there are bursaries in place, which gets us back to the idea that it is a meritocratic system (no matter if you afford it, an organization/state would pay for your studies). But the information on bursaries is not as globalised as one would expect. Moreover, the bursaries themselves do not cover everything such as living costs if studying abroad or other expenses. Therefore, regardless if one is awarded a bursary, he/she should have a stable economic background. The loans that could make the system a bit more meritocratic are problematic as the information is not globalised either and repayment differs from system to system and one may not afford to pay it back, which then would lead to unfortunate debt, etc. Also, an individual of a poor blue collar working class family may just never realise he/she could attend a great university. This is because the schools before universities (differencing in name from country to country) have different networking options and the parents themselves choose their child’s future according to what they know best, which is dependent on their class and their own accessibility.

Overall it seems that the meritocratic system today is failing at accessibility. Meritocracy is put in place inside systems, rather than being a system itself. Looking back at both articles and their conclusion, the situation does not change between 1995 and 2003 and looking at the present situation, it can easily be claimed that the meritocratic system requires payment for access.

Bibliography

Brown, P. 1995. ‘Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion: Some Observations on Recent Trends in Education, Employment and the Labour Market’. Work, Employment, & Society 9 (1): 29-51.

Goldthorpe, J. 2003. ‘The Myth of education-based meritocracy: Why the theory isn’t working’. New Economy 10 (4): 234-239.

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The Romanian Separation of Church from Religion

First of all, if you keep on with this website, you will know that I have argued how sociologists should rather ‘report’ the reality rather than recycle the old books without bringing the new, the actual times we live in to surface. (click HERE for post) Therefore, I am leaving here an essay I have written with loads of passion since it concerns my home country, Romania. I hope I did bring that level of reality in it and that I made myself clear in the arguments!

INTRODUCTION

Religion has always been a major player on societies stages and thus scholars have always taken great interest in it. Taking for granted Bruce’s definition of religion that it is “beliefs, actions and institutions that assume the existence of supernatural entities with powers of judgement and action… [and] the more philosophical forms of Buddhism and Hinduism” (2003: 10) and glancing through history to each territory, it is obvious that humanity has almost always been religiously involved. Beliefs have always been the strongest argument for oneself and the stronger those are, the more real they become in the group that shares them. The quote “if something is done wrong enough times it becomes right” is my standpoint towards religious implications and motivations for war throughout history, regardless of the exact type of religion or cause of war. Having an aim to fight for implies the absolute conviction of being right and that is settled in the minds through the belief that one is entitled to be right, has the background and reasons to be absolute right, that has always been ‘God’s will’, ‘God chose us’, ‘With the help of God’, etc. Although science may sometimes have been a suppressing factor, religion has often been used as a motivator. Conquering territories and enslaving locals have never had anything to do with rationality, but greed and belief of empowerment by a supernatural force. Regardless whether a leader has been deeply religious, officers and people involved within the wars had to either be paid to, promised reimbursement, forced, or to be extreme nationalists and religious so that they would go through the battles.

The most effective example to sustain the fact that religion has been a major player in political actions is nationalism. But that is, as well, the most effective example to show that religion is also a preserving method, identifier, and relief. As any existent factor within societies at any given time, religion also has both positive and negative consequences/outcomes. One positive is, obviously deduced, keeping national identity through the war. Even if the war itself had the negative implication of religious empowerment. Looking over Polish history, it is clearly seen how religion shaped and preserved Polish identity while circled by Lutheran Protestants and Orthodox. While under the communist government, the Polish Catholic Church has been the only oasis for national preservation and regardless of actual belief, individuals were identifying as Catholic. The same course of action stands behind Irish nationality. But while independence was slowly achieved, so were religious practices declining, as preservation was no longer needed.

The two sides (conquered, conquerors) ‘used’ religion for the suitable reason and that makes the overall topic of religion from a sociological perspective extremely complex and usually left without a straight-forward, one-line conclusion. European religious history is much less complex than any other, including the U.S.A situation, to which if we look at mostly today is highly ambiguous in the sense that is an amalgam of everything around the world and a creation of new beliefs that makes it hard to pinpoint and complex to discuss. But to draw an overall summary, religion has a major play part through history, nationalism is most of the times its manufacture, and although declining in personal importance i.e. secularisation, religion still plays an important role in international politics. But does it play just as an important role internally? Since, as seen, religion preserved Polish/Irish nationality and did that for other too, does it influence nationality today? And considering the massive territory that Catholicism of any type occupies, what is the status of Orthodox Christianity in Europe today? This essay will look at a brief history of the Romanian Orthodox Church and its influences and meanings in politics, and then will try to assess the contemporary religious-political situation within the said territory. First and foremost, Romania has always been an Orthodox nation. Being formed on the Gets-Dacians territory conquered by Romans (Traian/Trojan), St. Andrew is said to have preached orthodoxy since the very beginning. While the Gets-Dacians were polytheists, what followed to be Romania has been influenced by the Greek Orthodox Church and thus adopting Orthodox Christianity.

Romania, the Monarchy: before 1947

Before the Communist era, Romania has been a highly religious populous, valuing the dogma and behaving conservatively. Following the Bible, Romanians were celebrating all the Saint-Days, caring for Sundays as a rest-day, keeping the morale to ‘the word of God’, etc. Politically, I will start with Romania as a monarchy, after its independence in 1881, with king Ferdinant I. This is because I find it most important what happens at the end of Romania as a monarchy, the Communist era and the so-called Recovery, while the religious situation sees massive changes mostly through these times.

When Ferdinand I took the throne, influenced by his English Wife, Marie, he declared participation in war in 1916 along with France, England, and Russia willing the reunion with Transylvania. Having won, he and his wife become King and Queen of Greater Romania in 1922. 1927 brings a new king for Romania, but his background is highly important for the years to come. Carol II had to be pressured by his parents to marry the Greek princess Elena, so then in 1921, Mihai is born. Even so, Carol II begins an affair with Elena Lupescu and he moves to Paris in 1925. He had a regime of economic development but seen at his lifestyle as well, his political atmosphere was unstable. He becomes a personality cult, but he also laid the path for extreme politics by establishing an authoritarian monarchy in 1938. It is said that he ruled against his country’s best interests and his prestige and Greater Romania dramatically fall in the 1940s. Carol II is exiled in Portugal in 1953 and Romania sees Mihai The King. Seen as still young, he signs full power over to General Antonescu, constructing the second step on the path to the Communist regime. The end of Romanian monarchy is when Mihai was obliged to include Petru Groza as prime minister in March 1945 and so the path was walked to the door waiting to be opened. Romania was drawn into the Russian sphere of influence and regardless of Mihai’s struggles, he abdicates from the throne in 1947 when the Romanian Communist era begins.

Through these changes in the monarchy, Romanians remain orthodox, conservatives and ‘people with the fear of God’, following the Bible, attending services, etc. Churches were built as signs of winning through history (e.g. conquering or getting back a territory), thus people have always seen the churches as a Romanian symbol which gave hope and a sense of unity. Overall, until 1947, Romanians saw religion as a given to them, unquestionable truth, relief. I can argue, religion in Romania did not influence monarchical powers, as a sense of unity throughout has always existed. Even through war years, Romania itself has never weaponised its beliefs in God. It struggled between more powerful decision-making entities and has been always keen on not losing or taking back its territories. Being a quite small country, Romania would not afford to start a battle in any sense, so then religion was serving as hope and an escaping gate, rather than a motive to stir issues. On the other hand, religion has been a political aspect in Romania all the time, having the Patriarch as a Prime Minister and a member of the royal regency in the inter-war period, but this will only affect what I will discuss within the third chapter, that of contemporary situations.

Romania: The Communist Era, 1947-1989

“The Romanian Communists abolished other churches, but preserved a special attitude towards the Orthodox Church… As long as the church hierarchy supported the regime and the church remained engaged in propaganda the communists did not oppose it” (Leustean, 2007: 304). Although the quote is sincere, the events that took place are taking a turn and resulting in strengthening religious behaviour in Romania. It is related that in 1948 that “the law abolished the role that the Church once played in the State education, but preserves the control which the state has always exercised over the church” (Meyendorff, 1981: 149), that means that the church does not have power over the communist regime, but the regime over it. Relating, the Romanian Orthodox Church is said to have had 18 monasteries and around 12 million faithful while also retaining some of its properties while the communist regime took properties from everyone who owned.

Called now the Socialist Republic of Romania, its history has been altered in favour of communism and although under Russian maintenance the Orthodox Church did not suffer, except having to preach the URSS. But under the regime of Gheorghiu-Dej, the Romanian communism tries to weaken the churches power by controlling its hierarchy and denying its right to pursue educational and charitable activities (Stan and Turcescu, 2007). Then between 1965 and 1977, the church-state relations were softened, and the monasteries stopped being closed. The Orthodox Church has seen a light when Ceausescu used it to part Romania from Moscow and to integrate within the West as he needed financial support for his industrialisation projects. As soon as this has been achieved, religious prosecution has been a daily issue.

It is now to be seen a slight mirror of the Polish situation. Being forbidden to practice any religious rituals or even speak in religious terms, Romanians have lost their hope, the relief, the oasis of peace that religion used to mean. Thus between 1947 – 1989, they seem to strongly keep their beliefs. A tale that I have always been told is the struggle to teach children to never say Santa Claus, but Father Winter – this issue functioned in the following way: families wanted to preserve their Orthodoxy, thus hid their religious practices. Religious prosecution was reinforced and thus children were forbidden to use the terms that they would have heard in the family. The risk was high, but the will of preserving Orthodoxy was much higher. While Ceausescu was ordering the demolition/movement of churches the foreign minister Grigore Prioteasa was using his Orthodox knowledge to advance bilateral relations with the UK (September 1955). Similar incidents happened, and the regime became aware that religion could be used to benefit their position. Therefore, the Romanian Orthodox Church slowly gained its own way of contributing to promoting ethnologies and historical continuity.

The issue that is not emphasised as much as it should be is that, although the Orthodox Church was playing communist propaganda, Ceausescu ruled against it. Considering that my focus is rather sociological than historical, my argument for the discrepancy is that Ceausescu has been an eccentric nationalist who was willing to step over anything for its own proclamation, while narcissism and lack of social skills are also part of his description. Therefore, him banning religious practices is a way of gaining more attention, positive or negative. By the time he realised that he could take advantage of the Orthodox Church for its international relations, he immediately proceeded to let it operate under clear instructions. For his own benefit, as well, in 1972, his father had an official Orthodox funeral, his mother was a convinced religious individual, and communist officials could be baptised, religiously married and buried (Stan and Turcescu, 2007: 48/9).

Romania in the Communist Era saw a separation of church and state, but that being by force, did not only not last, but strengthened people’s will to religious behaviour. The connection between religion and politics is roughly unchanged. Under monarchical powers, religion and state had a strong harmonic connection, but in the communist times, the connection was even stronger because of the higher level of identification of Romanians with the Orthodox Church. On the other hand, the religions that have been abolished (see the first quote) barely resurrected after 1989. Romania is ranking the highest when asked if it believes in God, 92% in 2015, with 85% of the populous being declared Orthodox Christian in the same year (indexmundi).

Romania, the recovery period to present

I will briefly mention that the Church has been extremely important right after 1989. Attendance has slightly grown (after the restoration of the buildings and reinforcement of clergy) and religious practices were made public and actioned with pride. But on the other hand, Romanian economy was falling and monetary issues started to be the biggest problem. Throughout, Religion has been separated from the state and secularisation took place in Romania as well. Today, we are facing a government that cannot use religious motives to be voted or to explain their actions. Politics today see an alienation from God and democracy has set roots in the country. But looking closely at the situation, the Church is by far separated from the state. Again, religion is, the church is not. Romania has vast urban areas, schools and very good universities. But, it has many more rural areas with far away schools, almost no hospitals, etc. Rural areas in Romania are dull and some lack basic needs such as bathrooms and current water. 45% of Romanians live in rural areas (World Bank collection of development indicators, 2016). And the most important aspect is that, no matter how small the village is (the smallest that I have travelled to had 25 houses), there is a church.

On the other hand, the political system is highly corrupted, and the economy falls lower and lower with decreasing salaries (increasing taxes and prices, steady pay or slight increase but less than the sum of taxes and living expenses). Overall, as of 2018, Romania sees a decline in young professionals, decline in education quality and attendance, decline in trust in political decision-making, democracy itself (the lesser of two evils principle: you can vote, but what are you voting?). The implication of the Church is rather unfortunate. The institution does not pay taxes but it receives state befits i.e. receives payment from individuals’ taxes, no opt-out option, opt-in is automatic. More and more Churches are being built and, as a political merge, Romania sees the construction of a Mosque as well (the reason is too complex for this essay and would not affect the logic of conclusion). These are constructed from taxpayers’ money. Therefore, the Church lacks its meaning of hope and relief and stopped conducting social help. More and more social movements claim ‘I believe in the separation of the church from the state’. More frustrating for Romanians is that, by law, the Church has no political implications. Even so, the religious activities are used for political propaganda in the sense that mass-media still feels the need to announce who joined what religious practice, making the reputation of pious leaders or such.

The Economists writes that “The National Agency Against Corruption revealed a phone conversation between Patriarch Daniel, the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and Viorel Hrebenciuc, a well-known Social Democrat MP. According to the transcript, the politician told the Church leader that he can help him get a loan for the construction of the cathedral from Banco Espirito Santo, the “Holy Spirit” Bank, in Portugal. The case is under investigation” (July 2012). In the same article, the economist states that “The Church claims to have around 18m followers in Romania, which accounts for over 80% of the total population. The Orthodox Church has refused to offer The Economist‘s correspondent in Bucharest an explanation. Clerics avoid talking about the Church’s sources of finance and about its fortune. Yet judging by the luxurious cars the Church leaders were seen in at some public events, one might conclude that their finances are not too bad at all”. I am choosing to leave the whole quote as I find it the perfect summary of what I meant through the implication of Church in politics, but not religion. And one shall not think that The Economist is the only one writing these lines. More and more news channels relate the same stories in different situations and myself, having lived and regularly visiting, can firmly affirm that the relationship between church and the state is indeed strong, while religion itself is seen as a completely different story.

Conclusion

To summarise the ideas from the last three chapters, Romania is a country of believers. They have always relied on religion, used religion as a peaceful oasis, and always trusted their God. Romania has never seen a decline in religious practices per se because even during the communist era, people were still privately practising. Their belief never motivated wars or instigated hate towards them, but the Church today seems to have separated from religion, having the institution highly connected to political life. In the past, religion was highly and rightfully implicated in politics. Building monasteries as monuments, religion was giving a moral to judge by and politicians were quite attentive to it to be approved by the population. But with secularisation, morale and daily life are dictated by rational thinking, and religion is not influencing Romanian politics, nor do politics influence Romanian religion.

 

Bibliography

  1. Bruce, S. (2003). ‘Religion’, p. 1-14, Politics & Religion. Polity Press, UK.
  2. ERASMUS blog on The Economist, 2017 ‘Eastern Europe’s patriotic faith’. https://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2017/05/religion-after-communism
  3. IndexMundi, Jan 2018, ‘Romania Demographics Profile 2018’. https://www.indexmundi.com/romania/demographics_profile.html
  4. Irimie, R. C. (2014). ‘Religion and Political Identification in Communist Romania’, POLIS Revista de Stiinte Politice [POLIS Journal of Political Sciences]. II.2(4): 47-66.
  5. C. The Economist Bucharest, 2012. ‘The Mystery of God’s way in Romanian Politics’. http://www.economist.com/http%3A/%252Fwww.economist.com/node/21556502
  6. Lupisor, A., 2018, ‘A short History of the Romanian Monarchy’. https://www.historia.ro/sectiune/general/articol/a-short-history-of-the-romanian-monarchy
  7. Mircea, No date, ‘History of the Romanian Orthodox Church’. http://www.atlantaserbs.com/learnmore/history/romanian-church.htm
  8. Trending Economics, 2018, ‘Romania – Rural population’. https://tradingeconomics.com/romania/rural-population-percent-of-total-population-wb-data.html

 

 

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I have always argued that theories are what we want the world to be, think it would be, or not want it to be, constructing an umbrella for the happenings and societal flow.

The reality begins where we state facts of individuals living through a given period, where individuals of a society confirm the theory.

The general issue is that regardless of how many scholarly sources support the theories, the living society is rather excluded.

I will happily say that sociologists should rather construct and address the reality behind the theory than focus on papers that would anyway be only understood within academia (jargon is only one and the least significant reason).

I’m saying the latter assuming that we all agree that sociologists are some people that know a lot of history and can affirm a society’s situation, reason why the situation is that, critically assess it, and eventually come up with some improvement plan or if the situation is fine then a plan to keep it that way. Otherwise, as a sociologist myself, I wouldn’t know what else we do (as sociologists and not working in other fields).

I want to reject the idea that we would actually be supposed to treat theories on all their sides and try to stretch them to match some contemporary situation, always saying that “…yeah, this is what Weber (or someone else, but it’s usually him!) was saying when he wrote that … “. We should be looking around us, seeing what’s happening with the actual individuals in the society, rather than overall trends/tendencies.

Statistical sociology is a bit better than everything else since it actually requires us to find out what people say/think/do but unfortunately, when we then address it through an article, we lose its reality by writing 3/4 theory (quoting people that said something a century ago) and 1/4 actual data that allegedly matches some part of said theory.

If we’re looking at political sociology articles, we see how sociologists try to match the current situation to some intellectual that lived a hundred years ago and allegedly predicted the future. But shouldn’t we say that indeed it is this situation, let us see why, and that would not be because someone ‘predicted’ it, but because of x and y changes in the society and economic situation, etc.?

But I think my fight here is useless. Sociology has been this way since… it has always been this way. Unfortunately, having such a rapidly changing world, I think that us and a lot more other things (education system, banking system, law and order), should change as well, adapt, improve…

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7 poster

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Moving houses… I know from my own experience it’s hard to find something, to deal with the viewings and what do you even look for? Well, I’ve moved houses a lot in this city. And now I’m willing to share the information… And time… with anyone who needs a place.

Coming to town? Switching flats? Getting a friend over? Or you’re a busy student? 🙂 there’s something good for everyone and I can help you find it.

Contact me for more!

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5 real issues in Customer Service

Customer service is one of the most discussed and researched issues these days. I have read plenty articles on the topic, most of them giving tips to retailers, to managers, to assistants… but none of them was rightfully applicable in reality. All the articles seem to be written in the ideal marketplace, rather than in the crude world in which retailers have to operate. I have three+ years of experience as a customer assistant and as a supervisor, all for three different companies; therefore, I am now filling the gap and trying to explain the reality of shop assistants to managers and area managers, but not excluding the upper management of any given company.

1. Health and safety

This should rank above anything else. I know that the customers come first, but I am saying that they don’t. If your company lacks basic health and safety procedures, then you could find yourself in an always changing team. It has to be understood that health and safety is not just wet floors, signs, and clutter free shops. Health and safety is the treatment of people as well because we are living in times where mental health and personal well-being are highly important. I know that all companies have policies about mistreatment, bullying, etc., but what I know for a fact is that those are just policies. The reality is that how you treat people is a personality trait, thus employers have to actually be careful who they take on board, especially for management positions. Why? Because the team may easily end up with a manager that is by far nice to others but can fake smiles to customers. Considering that, when interviewed, we are only asked about going above and beyond for customers and being a good team player through examples, but never assessed on body language, tone, and hints if the stories are actually true, thus a quite high number of shops end up having an unfortunate management and, therefore, a rather weak team of staff. The rule that ’they don’t have to like you, but do what you say’ is a terrible saying from area managers to shop managers. They have to like you so that they do what you say. Having a team that is treated well, given the legal breaks, understood as human beings rather than entities who should fill the shelves, clean, and smile to customers no matter what makes it an actual happy store. The biggest issue is not being underpaid. The biggest issue is that while being underpaid, staff are expected to go above and beyond in unfortunate conditions such as never told something is done right, never taken in consideration that, like everyone, customer assistants can have a genuinely bad day, and most importantly, never listened to. I will come back to being listened to in the last paragraph. Heath and safety should not only cover the shop and customers. Health and safety must cover the team as well. Otherwise, exactly what is happening, employees tend to either resign after short periods or continue the work without any interest and care and letting this be seen by customers who, then, leave less nice reviews and may feel less and less welcomed to the store. Because regardless how nice or not nice a customer may be, they are still human beings who can perfectly understand that the shop assistant is a human being as well. It is only the companies that lack this understanding.

Health and safety is not just policies. Health and safety should not affect only procedures for the store and customers. Health and safety must apply to the staff as well.

2. Heavy lifting policies

Being hired in retail is a synonym for being a hard working person. Mostly at a physical level: the carrying, heavy lifting, arranging shelves and products, etc. No one who applies for a retail job ever thinks that it’s going to be easy peasy. But there is a massive difference between the real workload and what companies expect of staff. The idea that a person can handle anything is wrong, and the physical condition part of the employment questionnaire should be taken seriously. There are many customer assistants who have health issues because of the company that they work for. Back, joints, and feet pain are only some, and these are not to joke about. Companies throw the policies about correct lifting in the discussion, but the reality is that, literally, no one has time for those. Retail is fast pace and customer assistants have to deliver perfect service and usually handle massive heavy deliveries in almost no time. Moreover, the conditions in which the deliveries come may very well not permit a correct handling like the policies show. The correct timing of work is what companies prefer to skip. If less is more, then retail companies are failing. No customer assistant expects the job to be easy, but no customer assistant should have to sacrifice part of their health. These issues exist because of two reasons: management and upper management have zero experience as customer assistants and/or they never listen to their staff. They claim they do, but the reality is that one can have a deeper conversation with the walls rather than with a company’s management.

Heavy lifting is a real issue and policies for manual handling are never followed. Being correctly timed for your tasks would ensure healthy handling and a fair treatment towards the staff.

3. Rudeness

We all know that there are two types of customers: human and.. less human. The less human customers are those who think that they deserve everything, shop for leisure rather than need, and never actually smile. They are those who come back for refunds without the receipt and argue with the till operator. They are those who pick up items and leave them everywhere rather than at the till. Those who leave the shop messy without any remorse. Rude customers should never be treated nice. Why? Because everyone around them sees the behaviour. A fine person will never look down on someone who doesn’t smile to a shouting person. Human customers usually stand up for the staff member who has to endure some argument. And at the end of the day, a company that respects itself should respect fairness, and that is not the synonym of rudeness. Respect is a two-way street and allowing customers to misbehave in your store means not respecting yourself. ”The customer is always right” is something said by someone who never worked in retail or ever lived in any given society. No company truly believes that. If the customer would actually always be right, till operators will refund anything, at any given time, in any given conditions. Do they? No. Why? Because the customer has to prove that they are right (i.e. have the receipt). So then why allow misbehaviour? Because that does not affect profit margins, that only affects your staff. And do you mind about your staff? I’ll let you answer that. I am not suggesting mistreating customers or mirroring their rudeness, but I am advocating for a balance between fake smiles and crying in the staff room. There has to be a limit of allowed rudeness, and that should be shouting, used language, and touching in any sense (even a tap on the shoulder. Why? Because of the idea of personal space).

No one is always right. If companies would care about their staff, then there should be active policies on allowed levels of rudeness from customers.

4. Noise levels

This is actually more important than you would think. A noisy store is stressing for the customers that brows and check prices, those who line up for tills, and for the staff that usually spends more than 8 hours on the premises. Without any apology, I will argue that misbehaving babies and children should be not allowed in stores. Not only because running may cause some accident – I will get back to this, but because the noise levels create an unwelcoming, stressing, and ugly atmosphere. Babies may be cute and children fun, but not in retail. Why? Retail is a leisure activity for most of the individuals, thus requires a rather relaxing atmosphere. I don’t lack compassion for parents. Personally, I get it, it is hard to calm down a baby. But on the other hand, it is not really my or anyone else’s duty to. Considering that, I am not proposing banning parents with babies and children, I am saying that staff should be allowed to suggest that the parent may leave the premises for a second while the baby calms down. If the situation gives children, that is different. I said I will further explain and I am now. Running children and children who take items off shelves and put them someplace else are basically rude customers. The issue with the running is that if an accident happens, i.e. they fall, they break something, etc., by policy, it is the company’s fault. Let me tell you that it is the parents’ fault because children should behave, they have to be taught how to behave. And if they lack this, or parents don’t even try to regulate their behaviour, then these children are, in one word, spoiled. And the problem here is not only that they would hurt themselves and the company would pay a lot etc., strictly from a customer service point of view, why do other customers have to endure the misbehaviour? Quite a lot of times in the past three years I have been asked if I can suggest to a mother to leave the store because her baby was extremely loud and she was not trying to calm it down but was making noises back at it. I said I could not do that. But it did prove to me that I am right saying that not everyone wants high noise levels while shopping. I am not trying to insult or try to preach how people should raise their children here. I am saying that a store is not a playground. Nor a nursery. Nor a home. It is a public place. The same actions should be and are taken for drunk customers or those who are physically aggressive. Unfortunately, not for customers who are only verbally aggressive.

Retail is not a nursery or a playground. Staff and other customers have no obligation to bare high noise levels. If no trial to diminish the discomfort is made, customer assistants should have a say.

5. Being listened to

I am not expecting the workplace to be your therapist and I am not talking about that kind of listening anyway. But what management seems to forget is that someone follows the rules that they set. And if they do not communicate with those who actually work, the result is an unhappy, struggling team. As I was mentioning health and safety and the heavy lifting, there is no such thing as feedbacking in companies. No kind of meeting Pr online platform where the staff says something and management considers it and thinks over because, in the end, it is the staff that is affected. There is a genuine lack of interest in how smooth the shops work. Things like timing for tasks and rational action are the top two that a staff member will know better than management. By rational action I mean different policies in each business that are illogical, useless, and more time-consuming than positive towards customer experience. Each store and company will ask for different illogical actions. Obviously, there is a limit here too, that of rational feedbacking and bringing evidence.

Customer assistants do the work, thus they can assess the reality and logic of requirements. Employing a feedbacking system to listen to the staff would be a cost-free action that would further benefit the company.

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