For most of the 20th century, the word “reform” was commonly associated with securing state protections against the chaotic effects of capitalist market competition. Today, it is most commonly used to refer to the undoing of those protections.
This is not merely a matter of the appropriation of the term by those in the EU and international lending agencies who are using it as code for demands that Greece, for instance, make further cuts in public sector jobs and services. It is also the way the word has become increasingly used by the parties of the centre left. Thus, the newly elected leader of Italy’s Democratic party (the successor to what was western Europe’s largest communist party), Matteo Renzi, has called for the government to be even more determined in implementing its economic reform package. The package involves reducing public expenditure and changing regulations to make labour markets more flexible and attract foreign investment.
In pointing out how many European countries are now “furiously dismantling workplace protections in a bid to reduce the cost of labour”, a recent New York Times article actually located the roots of this in the “efforts to improve competitiveness” by the social democratic government in Germany in the early noughties. This was done in a way that “further eroded worker protections, fuelling a boom in low-paid, short-term ‘mini-jobs’ that today account for more than a fifth of German employment”.
via The Guardian
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