Alain Bihr‘s contempt for the term “human capital” is almost tangible: “As if capital, that cold monster, that accumulation of dead work, which lives only because it constantly preys on living work and exploits the labour of billions of people whose lives mean nothing to it, condemning more billions to poverty, insecurity, unemployment and socio-economic exclusion – as if there was anything human about capital.” He launches then into an explanation of how it’s all just exploitation anyway.
But the term always seemed a little fishy to me too. It smacks of blaming the victim: if you can’t get a job it’s your fault for not investing in yourself, not the fault of a failing economy. It’s plainly selfish too. After investing in yourself you might get that desirable job but only at the expense of someone who could not afford the “investment.”
Inevitably the EU is promoting some human capital type invest in yourself hokum in Poland these days. But for those who think that education and bettering oneself is the key there’s a – surely accidental – warning note in this week’s Polityka. In a feature on the used car import business they talk to an importer called Maciek, who now has over one hundred competitors in his town, including two who used to work for him – even though, as he says, he always tried to employ morons to avoid competition.
So when you walk, fresh out of your “prestigious” university, straight into a nice job as, say, a financial adviser (subject of scathing criticism in another article in the same issue of Polityka) don’t be so sure it’s all thanks to (your parents) investing in you.