Saturday, February 10, 2007


So it’s not just the more and more American workers don’t have time to eat at home, many have to eat on the go, while traveling to and from or during their work.

The process of turning the day into a 24-hour profit opportunity is a circular one. While McDonalds with its huge number of outlets currently dominates the breakfast market, competitors like Burger King, Wendy’s, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are rapidly trying to address the same market. Which means a bigger section of the restaurant workforce, hundreds of thousands of people, having to work night hours too. Another twist of the neoliberal screw.

While the company is trying to address burger-resistant customers with a range of new products and with its McCafé initiative, the most popular foods remain the double cheeseburger and fries. Both are high in fat and sodium. Other companies have tried to reduce or eliminate trans-fats from their foods, but McDonalds says this impairs the flavour. Which makes the comment of Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, self-evident, “More people going to McDonalds means poorer health”.

And there’s another health twist. A 2004 scientific report showed that sleep-deprived people have enhanced levels of the hormones that cause hunger, and are thus more likely to be overweight. Overweight people are much more likely to have sleep problems, setting up a vicious circle of declining health.

It’s 150 years since Marx pointed out that the crucial way for capitalism to increase surplus value and hence profits was extending the working day. Neoliberalism means people working longer and harder. It means much less opportunity to have sit-down meals with family and friends. It means less time for sociability and more atomisation, more stress, more sleep deprivation and more loneliness. This is the core area for the transformations that neoliberalism has brought – a counter-revolution in the work process, increasing both the length of work and its intensity (and supervision).

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