Sugar Daddy Capitalism: The Dark Side of the New Economy by Peter Fleming, published by Polity Press
Peter Fleming’s Sugar Daddy Capitalism discusses the process of deformalisation – when regulatory protection becomes less and less apparent in the business world – and the way it impacts our lives and personal relationships.
It examines the intricate power relationship between workers and bosses under the new economy.
The digital world has blurred the lines between work and leisure, and new forms of employment (which Mr Fleming points out are actually 19th Century forms of employment) brought in by Uber and other similar start-ups, have changed the way we view workers’ rights.
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.
We have seen a lot of change in the past 10 years, but not all has been for the worse. Technological developments have improved our lives massively and expanded humanity’s abilities, knowledge and convenience.
Start-ups like Uber or Airbnb are presented as money-hungry fat-cats in Sugar Daddy Capitalism. The reality is that their point is not to exploit, it is to disrupt old-fashioned industries that did not wish to evolve – until these innovative start-ups arrived and made them rethink their purpose.
Notwithstanding, these start-ups have to spearhead progress, and the exploitation of workers is not progress – it is regression. But the business world is, in many ways, moving away from the exploitation of workers. The rise in employee benefits, for example, shows that some business owners fundamentally respect their employees as human beings and want to support them.
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.
I found Sugar Daddy Capitalism very interesting because the challenges the new economy presents cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, unlike Mr Fleming, I believe it is up to the business world to change it.
Leaders and entrepreneurs need to re-engage with the purpose of what they are trying to achieve and confront these challenges. Injecting human values into business is not only how we make the market work for the majority of people but also the only way I see to be truly successful.