Covers environment, transportation, urban and regional planning, economic and social issues with a focus on Finland and Portugal.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Koistinen


1. Nokia

1.1 "Mainstream media" vision

Recently, Nokia, world largest manufacturer of mobile phones, announced that it would close its plant in Bochum (Germany) by the middle of this year in a cut that could reach up to 2300 jobs, and the transfer of the production to more competitive places in Europe.

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"We are transferring the production to existing plants, mainly in Romania, whose unit will open in the second quarter", said the spokesman of the company, Arja Suominen, stating that it had already begun the selection. [1]

In Europe, Nokia has factories in countries like Finland, Hungary and the United Kingdom, being a new factory in Romania in process of building, investment of around 60 million euros. It also has factories located in Brazil, Mexico, India and China. Last December, the company decided to move some of its production lines from Finland to South Korea.

According to Bloomberg, a German trade union considered this attitude "inhumane" and "socially unacceptable".

Also the Nokia Siemens Networks stated its intention to cut 9 thousand jobs, 15 percent of its total work force, by the end of 2010 (2290 from of Germany).

However, more recently Nokia presented the financial results of the fourth quarter of 2007 with an increase of 44% net profit, totalizing US $ 2.6 billion. The long-term goal, to reach 40% of mobile phones market share, was also achieved in the period.

From October to December 2007 the net sales grew up 34%, to 15.7 billion euros. The company announced that altogether it sold more than 133 million of mobile phones, an increase of 27% compared with the same period of 2006.


* End of the synthesis of some information disseminated by the corporate media *

2.1 Vision defocused from the individual

The distances become irrelevant; the technology division tends to disappear globally; the productivity is globally harmonised; a global management develops; the nationality of the companies gradually loses importance; emerges a new middle class in Central Europe, Asia and Latin America; increases the competition between the systems of values of the industrialized countries vs. Asia and Central Europe; in the West heterogeneous societies coexist with different systems of values and concepts of social class; in Western Europe emerges rejection of the concept of professional mobility; China , India and Russia become technological powers. [3]

These trends are subjective factors taken into account by multinationals when they plan the location of their production units on the world map, in order to obtain competitive advantages and financial profitability over the long term. In the case of Nokia, it wants to overcome their direct competitors, Samsung and Motorola, without reducing its profit margins.

This is the entrepreneurial vision of an management unit in a global economic system. A distant vision, defocused, “cold”, incomplete. But this is not the social reality of unemployment, a sum of thousands of avoidable individual tragedies, coexisting with a frantic capital accumulation, which no longer flows from the top (closed in itself) to the social basis. Today is Germany, tomorrow will be another selected country.

3.1 Vision focused on the individual

The exercise proposed in the following is suitable for the correction of social “myopia”. It’s about visualizing an extraordinary artwork of Chris Jordan, having the hope, like him, that "the images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books". Running the Numbers - An American Self-Portrait by Chris Jordan[4]

It’s necessary that the decision makers see their investment models in different scales, including the human scale. The statistics are necessary approximations of reality, but represent intrinsically an abstraction that may deviate us from the social and human reality , transforming human beings into digits.

2. The current capitalist system


2.1 Concept of social class [5]

The capitalist system is based on two institutions, whose integrity is crucial for its survival:

The private property - the social power of private property is exercised impersonally by market forces on the capital market, and personally in administrative privileges in companies.
The labour market - under-pinned by the power of the ruling class aiming to create unemployment and thus subverting the opposition to his “kingdom” through deflation, loss of confidence among investors, economic cycles of consecutive growth/slowdown.

Currently, there is strong argumentation against the importance of the concept of social class, considering that the mode of consumption is much more significant than the means of income or that there is a different form of social identification, largely cultural and religious, which can lead to identity conflicts, much observed in industrialized societies.

However there still exist quite important arguments in favour of the concept of social class, considering that it may contribute to the development of the individual's identity. It still exists a so called upper-class, isolate itself from other classes and almost impossible to penetrate; emerges a new "super-class", an "elite" of professionals and managers, who receive high salaries and and share ownership; the working class still has class conscience, continuing to believe in possible conflicts of interest.


Another prospect believes that any conception of class based on models of power is very limited, since the quality of life cannot be expressed in purely economic terms or property, but in terms of individual freedom, health and social respect .

Therefore, the concept of "class" is very complex, resulting from a combination of several factors: class; "status"; party / social activism; way of social, cultural and religious identification; access to information and media power. In addition to this, the social compositions are variable from country to country, with no rigid boundaries within each of these compositions.

So I think the future, particularly in the industrially advanced countries, may be of societies composed of multiple layers, each one with its own system of values. I believe that the concept of class based on labour, may disappear in societies that have achieved a large degree of industrialization, due to technological developments verified in the production process.

But the colossal disaster is reflected in the millions of shattered lives excluded from the system, the most vulnerable, the exploited of the exploited, living situations of extreme poverty, victims of human traffic, drugs addiction, epidemics, abandonment and social marginality, military conflicts, racial discrimination, etc. Unless creating conditions for freeing the human beings subject to these life conditions, no society will be truly free or have social peace.

Even so, the concept of class in its economic aspect – the position of an individual in a market determines its position in the class - remains an important analysis tool to find a solution to the increasing inequality of income between the world population as a result of the neoliberal policies. It should be used alongside a vision covering cultural and ethical values, adverse to the logic of capital accumulation and exacerbated consumerism as factors of social promotion, in an deconstruction attempt of the existing social-economic model.

Therefore, today and from an economic point of view, a generic model representative of a developed Western society, could be a five class model: a dominant social class or “upper class”, consisting mainly by the major owners of the means of production; a middle class divided into 2 parts - upper middle class and lower middle class; a working class; a lower class, characterised by repeated cycles of unemployment and the fall below the poverty line from time to time, when employment opportunities are scarce. A large share is composed by the lower middle class and the working class - more than 60% of the workforce – both with undefined borders.

Intellectuals and technical cadres are a social group transversal all classes. In general it has been accentuated the exploitation to which they are subject, with a clear deterioration of their economic and labour situation, increasingly excluded from top business decisions.

2.2 The limitations of reformism [7]

A share corresponding to the income of property has exponentially increased. The famous “trickle down” economic theory claims that the foreign and local investment, combined with large tax benefits to companies, naturally causes a redistribution of wealth from the economically dominant class to the other classes i. e., higher standards of living for the poor will develop gradually and not at the overt expense of the more affluent. [8]

Such policies are leading to a growing social polarization and to a growing instability and insecurity between the so called middle class - the rich becoming richer, the poor becoming poorer.

The current capitalist system, in full phase of the neoliberal globalization, is transforming the work into mere commodity. It is dehumanizing the work, whether manual or intellectual.

However, the normal mechanisms and game rules of the two markets initially described - the capital market and the labour market - could generate a political resource allocation, which could lead to "the corporate management yields up more and more of its prerogatives to the mobilized collective will of the workforce". Here an opportunity might arise for the big challenge - "the labour “de-commodification” , and the enmeshment of the investment function in a net of direct and indirect social controls". This could be the key to a progressive and cumulative transition to social justice and job security.

Maybe what we lack to do is to plan the change. To achieve the objectives of basic social justice and job security, it will be necessary to design these changes and implement them. The difference between revolution and reform lies in their capacity to mobilize the working class.

According to the reformist limitations thesis, a movement of workers which organizes around a reformist program can never represent a challenge to capitalism. However, opposite view arguments that unless the dominant political element of a reformist labor movement can be diverted from its program and its internal cohesion thereby destroyed, the challenge will be inevitable.

Furthermore, the way a party keep its political “faith” (going beyond mere welfarism) can save it from disintegration and marginalization, sustaining the unity of the movement. If the party moves away from the reformist path (as currently happens in most cases) the movement will replace it as representative political front or as the privileged interlocutor of the organised working class.

The compatibility between reformism and capitalism will thus be measured by the relationship between the policies of labour organisations and the vital institutions of capital.

3. Lights in the Dusk (Finnish: Laitakaupungin valot)


In the last film of Aki Kaurismäki, "Lights in the Dusk" - third part of a trilogy begun by “Drifting Clouds” (Kauas pilvet karkaavat, 1996) and “The Man Without a Past” (Mies vailla menneisyyttä, 2002), the first about unemployment and the second about homelessness - the actor Janne Hyytiäinen plays the role of Koistinen, a lonely night watchman, who meets an attractive woman (Maria Järvenhelmi in her role). Being deceived by a group of criminals, he loses his freedom, job and his dream of becoming a small enterpreuner , being convicted of a crime he did not commit.

Koistinen is a common man, who tries to improve his position in a world with scarce opportunities, but who sees the most powerful denying him this wish.

Last November, in an interview with the Portuguese newspaper JN - which you can read entire through this link - the Finnish film director Aki Kaurismäki answered to some questions: [9]

How to define the character of Koistinen? Many critics called him " looser" or "poor devil". But isn’t he, principally, a naive and decent man who believes in a good world?

And it’s hard to be (laughter). He’s a fighter, it’s difficult to beat him. He wants to do something useful and good in his life, improve his condition. It’s like a character of Buster Keaton, in this aspect. The more he’s beaten , the more strength he has to get up. But he has no luck.
In the same interview, he answers to a question related to the multinational Nokia:
Your films have a realistic framework, but on the other hand they contradict it. No cars, modern technology ... Do you consider yourself a “realistic" cineast?

As for the cars, I’m the last romantic. The modern cars are very ugly, I hate them, I can´t show them. Even if I wanted to.

And the technology? You were born in the country of Nokia, but there are no mobile phones in your films.

98 percent of Nokia is ownership of american pension funds. I don’t like the modern times. I like the 50’s, the design of that time. And now, also the 60’s. And if live some more years, the decade of 70, despitehaving been the most ugly of them all.

Indeed, Nokia is a multinational with an overwhelming majority of non-Finnish shareholders, distributed by various nationalities. The most representative are the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Switzerland.

The relocations are not a problem of competition between different countries or between workers of different nationalities. They are a problem of relationship between the working class and the major holders of the transnational capital. The tactic used was always the same: divide to reign within borders, now through them. And explore today to exclude tomorrow.

I wish that the new heroes, products of the unemployment caused by the capitalist globalisation, could forget the past, overcome the present and win the future, with the precious touch of a friendly hand.

References:

[1] Nokia fecha fábrica na Alemanha e corta 2300 postos de trabalho, www.negocios.pt
[2] Nokia's Kallasvuo apologises to Germans, www.hs.fi
[3] IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, www.imd.ch
[4] Chris Jordan, Running the Numbers - An American Self-Portrait, www.chrisjordan.com
[5] Wikipedia article: Social class
[6] Rhizome News: Historical Resource Roundup: Radical Software, rhizome.org
[7] Winton Higgins and Nixon Apple, Journal Theory and Society, How limited is reformism?
[8] David Truskof, Trickle down economics perpetuates war
[9] Entrevista com Aki Kaurismäki, "Não gosto destes tempos", dn.sapo.pt

Note: this article is a translation from the original article in Portuguese, "Koistinen"

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2 comments:

RennyBA said...

Great, informative, educational and readable post - thanks for the research and for sharing!

I have a Nokia too - follow the main stream you know.

Btw: I love your blog top pics - The Northern Light I guess. I use the same as my blog is about Norway :-)

mokki said...

Thanks,RennyBA.:)
I added your blog to my linkroll, and also on Stumbleupon and Technorati.

Cheers!