By Peter Fleming
- Sugar Daddy Capitalism; The Dark Side of the New Economy (2018)
- The Death of Homo Economicus; Work, Debt and the Myth of Endless Accumulation (2017)
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 fueled 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, jogging.
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”.
Sammy Rubin on Financial Times wrote:
"Fleming succeeds in highlighting today’s vulnerabilities, although it would be naive to suggest that the world would be a better place without the market. Individual exploitation was common in the Soviet system; the welfare state and trade union movement crystallised patriarchy; and societies that provide for themselves – such as traditional extended families – can restrict the freedom of individual members, particularly women. Bad apples exist in all economies. When we blame markets, we would at times do better to point to dangerous social norms. Disposing of markets is, therefore, no panacea. The question is: What can be done? Fleming argues that this very question “is a trap”, although he does go on to offer some suggestions: universal basic income; outlawing sham self-employment and zero-hours contracts; growing the public sphere through greater regulation and “radical” bureaucracies; and alternative labour unions, such as the Independent Workers’ Union. Ultimately, however, his book is a call to cast aside the individual freedom agenda of neoclassical economics. To be honest, I’d rather keep the individual freedom bit but rebuild markets in a way that delivers more equitable and sustainable outcomes.
"Overall, Mr Fleming is very succinct at presenting the ‘dark side’ of the system. The ever-growing imbalance between rich and poor, sexual harassment in ‘replaceable’jobs, and the crisis of financial wellbeing (which our company, yulife, tries to tackle) are only a few of the valid problems he brings up in his book. However, Mr Fleming attributes all these concerns to the heart of the new economy, assuming that business owners are inherently motivated by sinister agendas and the desire to accumulate wealth. I believe that is wrong. As to the essence of the new economy, Mr Fleming seems to overlook the many benefits the system has. [...] On a broader level, like Mr Fleming suggests, government regulation regarding workers’ conditions may well be needed. However, it has to come hand-in-hand with ethical business. Leaders in the financial sphere should promote mission-driven businesses. That is how we should approach business: as a vehicle for doing good. Being moved forward by a vision and putting people first is not just the government’s job – it is our job too."
- "Sugar daddy capitalism: even the world’s oldest profession is being uberised" - article by Peter Fleming on The Conversation, 14 January 2019
Table of Contents
- Introduction: The Economics of Sleaze
- Chapter One: Uberfamiliar
- Chapter Two: Sugar Daddy Capitalism
- Chapter Three: Wiki-Feudalism
- Chapter Four: The Human ... All Too Human Workplace
- Chapter Five: No More Buddy Buddy
- Conclusion: Less Human
About Peter Fleming
Peter Fleming is professor of business and society at the Cass Business School, City, University of London. Before joining Cass, Peter Fleming held positions at Cambridge University and Queen Mary College, University of London. Fleming's research focuses on the changing relationship between business and society, with special emphasis on new patterns of conflict in the workplace, the evolution of management ideologies and the rise (and fall) of Corporate Social Responsibility. He has also extensively studied the causes of organisational corruption in the private and public sectors. Peter regularly writes for The Guardian and the BBC among other media outlets.