What is the connection between the sleaziness of Harvey Weinstein’s ‘business meetings’ and the passionless doctrine of neoclassical economics? In this witty and incisive examination of the new economy, Peter Fleming argues that they are closer than you might think.
The quest to rid society of bureaucracy, shrink government and burn red tape has certainly made capitalism ‘more human’, but not in the family-friendly way envisaged by free-market gurus. Increasing informality has led to a capitalism fuelled by limitless exploitation and increasingly seedy methods of management, from semi-feudal workplace hazing rituals and predatory middle-managers with an axe to grind to arbitrary zero-hours contracts, Uber and, perhaps worst of all, the compulsory gym session with your boss.
Fleming dubs this ‘Sugar Daddy Capitalism’ after the controversial dating-app wealthy businessmen use to meet young girls, most of whom are struggling with university fees. What seems like a creepy outlier is actually a prescient metaphor for our whole economy: an anonymous and impersonal cash system that is also intent on getting under your skin, extra close and capable of ruining everything if you say ... ‘no’.