Slaves to the Asset

Brett Christophers in Labour Hub:

The period since the global financial crisis has seen increased recognition, sparked in particular by the work of Thomas Piketty, that contemporary capitalism is increasingly ‘rentierist’ in nature – dominated by the control of scarce rent-generating assets such as land, infrastructure and digital platforms.

It is also increasingly accepted that the UK is the archetype of such a rentier economy. Having pursued the privatization of public assets further arguably than anywhere else, the country is reaping the consequences in terms of entrenched rentier ascendancy and power.

In most discussions of rentier capitalism, work is conspicuously absent. This is easy to explain. Work, it is said, is what happens in ‘productive’, non-rentier capitalism. Rentiers, by contrast, do not work. Their income is derived not from doing something – working – but exclusively from controlling something – the scarce asset, whatever that asset happens to be. It is in this sense that rentier incomes are said to be ‘unearned’ incomes, in contradistinction to the earned incomes of productive capitalists and those employed by them.

Yet the reality is much less clear-cut.

More here.