Bee said to me this morning: “I think I ought to stop buying from Amazon.”
I agreed, which was easy for me as I hardly ever do. (I only go there once all other avenues have been explored, usually for obscure stuff that it’d be hard to find anywhere else.) But that wasn’t her point.
Later in the day, I read Carole Cadwalladr’s exposė in the Observer of the near-slavery working conditions in their Swansea warehouse (which I already more or less knew about). That was Bee’s point.
I accept that, obviously. But my extra point is concealed in an opinion lurking early in Cadwalladr’s article. “Amazon is successful for a reason. It is brilliant at what it does.” This is where I part company. Amazon is actually rubbish at what it does. Let me explain.
A capitalist system, theory tells us, exists for only one purpose: to produce (duh) goods and services which can be sold in the market, thereby enriching the owners of the system (capitalists) whilst rewarding the producers of the goods and services (workers). Marx’s argument was that the inherent bias of the system (because power leeches upwards towards ownership and away from labour) contains the seeds of its own destruction, via revolution.
Well, he’s been proved wrong on that one – so far. But what he couldn’t have foreseen, of course, was consumerism, household debt, and the internet. The new capitalism is based on the belief that the present isn’t a problem, because you can just push it forward into the future. My* old metaphor of the inverted pyramid of piss still holds up.
So that’s why I say that your Amazons are bad at what they do – they just don’t get it. They don’t get true capitalism, which requires a balance of contribution from each direction. Henry Ford got it when he worked out that he could use people to make his cars, but he needed to pay them money, so that they could buy his cars.
*Kingsley Amis’s, actually, but I’ve adopted it as a fond mindchild