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Concentration of taxi drivers in Barcelona to protest for new regulations and against VTC service unfair competition January of 2019. Photo by AFP7/ZUMA Press/Newscom/lafototeca.com

Looking for a new social contract

What used to represent an advantage, having a well-structured society, with large agreements in sectors such as education, health or public services, became an obstacle in a globalized world that, thanks to digitization, could erase the costly economic efforts and the time required for social consensus, involving decisions that determined by technological evolution.
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Not a single day goes by without finding in the media a news that upsets political stability. One of the main factors that sustain and underpin the stability of a society is the social contract that prevails in every community; a social contract that is based on a simple principle, that citizens agree to limit individual freedom to obtain a series of rights in favour of a common project. Jacques Rousseau exposed the idea in his work The Social Contract, where he observed “the total alienation of each associate and all his rights from the whole community” / “each of us puts in common his person and all his power under the supreme direction of the general will”. The general will to which Rousseau refers is to a certain extent the basis of the social contract, since individuals assume it for their own benefit and for the rest of the community. The demands of the taxi sector, with a severe strike that has affected thousands of citizens, against the attack of the VTC to their business, is a clear example that the social contract that we had imposed should be reviewed if one does not want to put in risk social cohesion.

Citizens who are part of the core of resistance to these changes, such as the taxi sector and in the near future the public transport sector when cars without a driver arrive, can only ambush waiting for reality to finally assault their finished world.

When the concept of globalization appeared in the 1980s -in French-speaking terms, the mondialisation– it was thought that it opened up enormous possibilities in deepening the social contract that, implicitly, many liberal democracies had equipped themselves to advance politically and economically. One of the main tools to act in a globalized world was that liberal democracies had built mediation systems that facilitated agreements, consensus and pacts between employers, unions, the financial sector and the State to ensure a common goal. Mediation made it possible to face with better guarantees the challenge of globalization against countries with less capacity for social articulation and authoritarian political systems.

However, what represented an advantage, having a well-structured society, with large agreements in sectors such as education, health or public services, became an obstacle in a globalized world that, thanks to digitization, could erase the costly economic efforts and time required for social consensus, involving decisions that determined by technological evolution. Technological companies could act in any country in the world from decision centres that always moved in the logic of avoiding, for their optimal growth, the measurement systems of the countries in which they impacted. The consequence of this process that have experienced sectors like the paper edition, logistics companies, the culture sector and especially the music sector, tourism or catering, is now extending to all layers of society, affecting therefore the majority of citizens. Citizens who are part of the core of resistance to these changes, such as the taxi sector and in the near future the public transport sector when cars without a driver arrive, can only ambush waiting for reality to finally assault their finished world.

This evolution will culminate in a post-human society from which we can now only perceive a small part of the benefits and prejudices that it will entail. In this context we must situate the taxi crisis. The violence, tension and resistance to the change expressed by the taxi drivers is the result of the certainty that their time is running out

Citizens who are part of those who collaborate with the changes and precipitate them are trapped by a new world where their rights are diffuse, when not directly exploited by a reality that promises a lot but that may end up giving less than the old world. We are facing a new situation, in which the social consensus that had been reached is becoming weakened as robotics advances as the maximum expression of change. This evolution will culminate in a post-human society from which we can now only perceive a small part of the benefits and prejudices that it will entail. In this context we must situate the taxi crisis. The violence, tension and resistance to the change expressed by the taxi drivers is the result of the certainty that their time is running out, just like the coal industry ended in Asturias or when the shipyards in the Basque Country or Galicia had to disappear. The experience lived in front of the reaction of the taxi drivers before the threat of the VTC leaves us a bittersweet feeling. This crisis shows that some of the bases of the implicit social contract, which governed our society have blown away. The time of “everyman for himself” is here. The process of change should cause institutions, trade union platforms, employers and political parties to move to study how to implement a new social contract that takes into account the costs of the transition we are living and ensures that the new forms of economic organization assume the restoration of mediation mechanisms that allow us to anticipate the problem and foster solidarity in an increasingly divided society, separating those who are part of the old world and those who are part of the new.