Interview with Stefanie Claudia Müller
I think that the term proletariat refers to industrial workers while precariat includes all the badly paid service workers, some of them even have an academic carreer. It is more about financial exploitation than a physical one. The difference is that Precarians are totally aware of their situation, they have travelled, they have more knowledge and a lot of them dispose of a very good education, which makes it even harder for them to stand the situation. You have more precarians in countries like Spain where you nearly have any social benefits and just the family as your last chance.
Which changes in the economic system in the past decades affected the situation of people called the precariat mostly?
What has changed is the big difference between salaries and bonuses of the top-management and the lower middle class people. Since in countries like Spain so many people go to university it is nothing special anymore. The companies do not remunerate academic background; it is like a condition that is not rewarded anymore.
What would you describe as neo-liberal policies, and how does it relate to the situation of the precariat?
In think that precarious is not the right term to describe the increasing poverty of educated people in a mostly neo-liberal oriented society and the increasing wealth of people that just speculate but do not contribute to the well being of everyone. We should rethink the whole salary system and pay for instance a lot to teachers, politicians and doctors and much less to services like advertising, movies, sport sector or the whole financial world that does not contribute directly to the well-being of a society. We lost all feeling about the real value of things and services. Everything has got out of control with a lack of transparency in the financial world.
How did the economic crisis, which started in 2008, influenced the situation of protesters?
I think that the global protests take place against the established system of corruption, nepotism and a big difference of middle-class people and top class. Part of the low middle class has become poor because of the crisis. People are furious about the banking sector in general. Financial economy has become more important than industrial economy. We speculate, but we do not progress anymore in production, in improving the daily situation for everyone on the planet.
Which demands of the protesters on Wall Street – in economic terms – you found the most important?
I agree with the lack of transparency they criticize and I am against speculation the way it takes place today. It is very dangerous!! We just have to see how we suffer because of a crisis provoked in 2008 and how the prices for groceries are increasing although the demand does not surpass the offer.
If you could compare the situation of protesters in Europe with the situation of the protesters in the United States – what would be the common denominator, and what would be the biggest difference?
In Europe we try to maintain our social system and the social guarantees as free health care system etc., in the States the protests are more related to Wall Street and banks. We also talk in Europe about corruption and a lack of transparency on where the public money is spent. In the US they criticize and focus on speculation and the “Wall Street System.”
You live in Spain. We read a lot about intensifying evictions, unemployment among young people still remains at a high level. What do you think, as an economist, was the biggest mistake of the Spanish in case of this situation?
The biggest problem in Spain is the lack of confidence in the democratic processes and the missing rigidness to pursue violations of existing laws. There is no transparency, neither in the management of the monarchy, nor in the spending of public funds. A big problem as well is the shadow economy. The controls do not work. There is no-coherent action of politicians or entrepreneurs. In the end a lot of independent institutions are serving economic and political interests. There is a lot of talking about a change, but it is more about ideoligies than real action. Real action includes the whole society. For many political leaders and also for journalists it is easier to blame the oppenent than to come up with solutions. But that is a general problem of politics. Ideas have become more powerful than action.