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Image: Francisco Martins CC BY-NC 2.0

The news in 2014 was regularly punctuated with stories of care home residents suffering abuse. As a result, care workers have been prosecuted and sentenced and homes have been closed, yet hidden camera exposes produced by residents’ relatives and by documentary film makers continue to highlight further incidents. The picture is grim. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that we have heard resurgent calls, from politicians, professional bodies and journalists, for a return to ‘compassionate care’. These calls usually emphasise the need for care workers to be re-trained so that they can learn (or re-learn) empathy. Sometimes this is juxtaposed to an emphasis on professional qualifications. For instance, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron suggested that ‘nurses should be hired and promoted on the basis of having compassion as a vocation not just academic qualifications’.

Yet, this widespread interpretation of recent crises in the care sector misunderstands the logic of care work. Simply put, it ignores the fact that care work is a type of what scholars have termed ‘body work‘: paid work that requires workers to touch, manipulate or otherwise work on, and in direct contact with, the bodies of others. For various reasons, summarized below, body work is extremely difficult to standardize or make profitable. Yet a privatized care regime is premised on companies’ ability to do precisely this: realize profit through standardization and capital-labor savings. In this context, one in which private care companies attempt to achieve largely unachievable goals, there is no reason to believe we have seen the last harm to residents nor a shift away from care practices that systematically undermine the dignity of those being cared for. Meanwhile, care workers employed by private companies have become residual casualties; unable to compensate for the structural problems endemic to privatized body work and demonized by the media when things go wrong. Read More

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Soup kitchen

Source: Wikimedia Commons

by Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler

Can it be true that capitalists prefer crisis over growth? On the face of it, the idea sounds silly. According to Economics 101, everyone loves growth, especially capitalists. Profit and growth go hand in hand. When capitalists profit, real investment rises and the economy thrives, and when the economy booms the profits of capitalists soar. Growth is the very lifeline of capitalists.

Or is it?

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WEB+GM+logo+and+ignition+switchIn recent months, General Motors has received scathing critique for its handling of a design flaw affecting multiple Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn models produced over several years.  At issue is a faulty ignition switch that, if jostled, cuts power to the engine, deactivating airbags and other features of affected vehicles.  The problem was brought to light by Florida engineer Mark Hood, who discovered that newer ignitions with the same part number differed from the original design and required significantly more force to turn.

Subsequent investigation has determined that G.M. approved a new ignition switch design in 2006 and quietly implemented it without recalling vehicles subject to ignition failure.  Inquiries by a federal agency, Congress and the media have revealed that G.M. has been aware of problems with the switch design for more than a decade but hid them from outsiders.  The company now admits it has known about the problem since 2001, has acknowledged at least thirteen deaths related to the flaw, and has recalled millions of vehicles.

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