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Isomorphic Inequalities

One of the things I like about Bauman is his sensitivity to what I’ve come to think of as isomorphic inequalities. In Wasted Lives he contrasts the enforced ghetto with the voluntary ghettos of the super-rich. In Globalization he contrasts the enforced mobility of the migrant* with the elective mobility of the global elite. We might add to this the enforced precarity of those stuck within the zero-hours and on-demand economy to the elective freedom from occupational commitment of the consultant. 

In all these cases, a shared status (ghettoisation, mobility, precarity) is relationally constituted in different ways through the factors which determined how one came to that status and the possibility one has of leaving it. The fact the status is not intrinsically harmful (even if it may contingently be such for the vast majority of people occupying it) is often played upon to negate claims for redress e.g. the constant invocation of students seeking flexibility in the debate about zero hours contracts in the UK.

*Though if I recall correctly, he largely ignores the vast majority of humanity who are not mobile. There’s a risk that pushing this style of theorising too far renders invisible the large swathes of humanity who don’t fit within the terms of the dichotomies.

Categories: Digital Inequalities The Political Economy of Digital Capitalism The Sharing Economy Thinking