Inequalities of Rentier Capitalism: The Commons as the Future

Venue: Campus of the University of Vienna („Altes AKH“), festival tent in Hof 1
Position of the tent:
Free entrance
Registration is required only for those wishing to participate via ZOOM broadcast.

Keynote lecture by Guy Standing (SOAS, University of London). Moderation: Dorothee Bohle (University of Vienna)

The neoliberal economics revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, associated with the Chicago School and the Mont Pelerin Society, led to an era of hyper-financialisation and the evolution of a globalised rentier capitalism. This actually created a most unfree market economic system, with more and more of the income flowing to the owners of property and less and less to those performing labour.

Accentuated by neo-liberal labour market and social policies, that was also associated with the emergence of a new globalised class structure in which the new mass class is the precariat, disadvantaged by several forms of inequality. The precariat has also been hit more than other groups by a peculiar feature of rentier capitalism, the systematic plunder of the commons, through privatisation, commodification and financialisation. The commons historically provided low-income groups with informal social protection and helped hold society together.

This presentation, drawing on several recent books, will argue that reviving the commons and compensating the commoner for their deprivations should form the core of a new progressive politics grounded in ecological imperatives of our times.

Guy Standing is an economist, with a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He is currently Professorial Research Associate at SOAS University of London, and previously was a professor at SOAS and the Universities of Bath (UK) and Monash (Australia). Before that, he was Director of the Socio-Economic Security Programme of the International Labour Organisation. In 1995-96, he was Director of Research for President Mandela’s Labour Market Reform Commission. He has been a consultant for many international bodies and governments, including the UNDP, UNICEF and the World Bank, and for three years has been an invited speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Professor Standing is a founder and honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), an international NGO promoting basic income as a right. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and a Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences. He has designed and conducted basic income pilots in India and elsewhere, and is currently advising the governments of Wales and Catalonia on ongoing basic income pilots. His most recent book is The Blue Commons: Rescuing the Economy of the Sea (2022), which the Financial Times made one of its Books of the Year. His previous books include Battling Eight Giants: Basic Income Now (2020); Plunder of the Commons: A Manifesto for Sharing Public Wealth (2019); Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen (2017); The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay (2016; third edition 2021); Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India (2015); A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens (2014); and The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011; fourth edition 2021). The Precariat has been translated into 24 languages.

Rosamund Johnston is a REWIRE postdoctoral fellow at the Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET), University of  Vienna. She is the author of Red Tape: Radio and Politics in  Czechoslovakia, 1945-1969 which is shortly to appear with Stanford University Press. Her writing on transnational radio listening in Cold War Central Europe has been published in Central European History and a number of edited volumes. Her work has featured in the Journal of Cold War Studies, East Central Europe, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Scottish newspaper The National, and on public broadcaster Czech Radio. Johnston is the author of one book of public history, Havel in America: Interviews with American Intellectuals,  Politicians, and Artists, released by Czech publisher Host in 2019.  She is currently researching the global history of Czechoslovakia  between 1954 and 1994 through its arms trade.