...[I]t’s worth noting that these very poor labor market conditions [in the U.S.] have not been accompanied by significant political action by the unemployed. These are not halycon [sic] days for labor unions, and unlike their counterparts in Greece and other parts of Europe and in the Middle East, where economic weakness has set off street demonstrations in recent months, people in the United States have suffered the indignity of unemployment rather quietly.Ms. Rampell gleans two explanations from the academics following this. First, unions are week in the U.S. and are being made weaker in many places. (Think of the recent tumult in Wisconsin over public employee unions.) Unions, she says, are essentially in survival mode, without enough resources to do what unions do. Second, increasingly, unemployment benefits can be managed by clients over the telephone or online whereas, in the past, the unemployed were forced physically to stand in line which was an invaluable moment for mobilization among those with a shared interest. To put it into sociologese, it is easier today for an unemployed person to be falsely conscious, attributing his ill fortune to individual factors, because, even though there are at this moment about 28 million others just like him, the convenience of the internet has robbed him of his chance to become class-conscious by witnessing the shared plight of all those others. As others have pointed out, the internet isn't the democratizing thing that we all imagine it to be, and in fact, it can be rather hegemonic.
UPDATE: Here is a complete article on the topic from Catherine Rampell.
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