Capitalism goes into a spin; but what does it mean to the Deaf world?

News just in has seen the vote for the $700bn ‘bail out’ plan fail in the US, and the markets dive yet again.  The only thing that surprises me about these events is that anybody was ever surprised about it at all.  As long ago as 2002 there were warnings that this is what would happen.  And everybody in the financial world has been bleating on for ages that a bubble is being created that is fit only to burst. Governments generally tended to believe that the market would eventually right itself if left unregulated and to its own devices.

I’m not going to pretend I understand the fine and technical details of what is happening: hedge funds, equity savings, and the impact of short term investments are beyond me; but anybody who takes a moment to look at what is happening will notice all is not well in the finance markets.

But two things are being forgotten that I think are worth considering.  Firstly, those interested in making profit from capital will not be the main ones to suffer: it will be those already struggling to make ends meet as banks and services start to tighten up lending and increase prices to make sure they retain their profit margins.  I can’t be the only person on the planet to notice that even though the price of a barrel of oil has actually been falling in recent weeks, petrol and energy prices have stayed rooted upwards. While it is working people who will be expected to bear the brunt of the crisis, the panic will surely be the middle-classes.

What does all this have to do with Deaf people one might wonder? Socio-economically, I’ll suggest that Deaf organisations will be at risk of seeing ‘progress’ being reversed, as programs that rely on funding are scaled back: we’ll find ourselves looking at the similarities we have with other groups, the need for solidarity with those who are also affected, and the class-based nature of our society will become ever more exposed.  These issues may end up cutting through Deaf/hearing lines, and giving rise to differences within Deaf studies on the nature of our society.  As I have written elsewhere, often the nature of the ‘hearing society’ in which we live is contested, but is often never made explicit on the basis it is considered ‘not a Deaf issue’.  Deaf studies can, of course, be a separate area and sphere of study, but I’d suggest when we get events like this happening, it can have its limits unless tied into a relationship with wider epistemologies.

Secondly, although the news is looking dire, this will not frighten those whose job it is to make profits; this will be considered an ‘opportunity’ – to make money and profits from declining stocks, perhaps for longer term profits.   That also shouldn’t come as a surprise because our entire system is underwritten by this very factor: i.e. competition for money, resources, stocks, etc; and those involved are trained to see it in fiscal rather than human terms.  This is in no way to de-humanize those involved in buying, selling and profit-making, but to simply underline that the world has suddenly become obssessed by what happens to cash.  And as the old punk saying goes: some will be out to make cash from chaos.

Our modern day politicians are too used to the idea that the market can solve the problems; indeed their careers have recently been spent fine-tuning arguments to favour a form of the market, even if it might be called ‘market-socialism’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one).  Now it is cracking or creaking or whatever they have no alternatives; they look to the ill-patient to get them out of the rut.

I’m not one of those who takes great joy in the problems experienced by capitalism, much as Ive never been a great supporter of the system, and that’s because every crisis creates misery and makes it much harder for people to enjoy a good quality of life.  Some even struggle to survive.  Protest or even revolts are not inevitable, in spite of how people might like to think of a misinterpreted marx, but the chances of them happening rise because people may see they are being made to pay for a crisis not of their own making.  Deaf people may find themselves faced with the question of whether to get involved in these movements, and they will be faced with what to do to ensure they can take part.

I am interested to see what Deaf people are making of this situation; not only with regards to their personal point of view, or with its affect on Deaf communities; but in terms of how this affects Deaf people in relation to the system as a whole.  One of the questions I would ask is whether these events are considered a separate political/economic issue to what goes on in the Deaf world; but more importantly, if they are connected, in what ways might that be so?



  1. Oh, they’re connected. We’ll bear the brunt of it, since we’re always the first who gets cut off from services and such. It’s going to be rough… I am afraid that we are heading for a depression bigger than the Great Depression in the 1920’s.

  2. Brilliant post, and yes, we will suffer indeed, although I am in Canada, but when the U.S. sneezes, we catch a cold. Already my retirement savings are evaporating!

  3. In reply: I’m not really sure anybody understands what is really going on, but I think you make a really good point tayler on our means of access to that understanding 🙂 I wonder if there are some Deaf economics people out there making attempts to outline the crisis via v-logs or even blogs…?

    David, what you write is true, it seems, of the entire world…we’re all catching a pretty heavy cold…when we get a crisis of this nature it brings the global nature of our economy home in a sharper way; and shows precisely to what extent Deaf communities are also interconnected. [By the way, I’m not suggesting nobody notice or understands it because they do; but the focus is often too centered on our differences, at times, I think.]

    That brings me to DeafPundit, on the nature of the interconnection…the economic dimension to research in the field of Deaf studies is largely absent, but at times like these it becomes evident we might learn something if there is more research/thinking in this field.

    Just a few thoughts from your replies, and ta for your inputs 🙂

  4. Oh yes, I agree. This economy issue does not bid well with the deaf and state gov’ts will be making budget cuts to accommodate the changes- starting with the deaf services first.

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