Inclusion of zombies in the employment arena will create a significant imbalance in the market and threat to our way of life. (Moneybags 2009: 46)
A minority group of Afro-Caribbean origin; zombies have historically been discriminated against within societies who have overwhelmingly designated institutional or peripheral spaces for this group. It is widely known that zombies are highly photosensitive; however, without any accommodation from society it is impossible for them to fully participate as citizens. A groundbreaking theory by Alistair Moneybags attempts to provide new insights into the discrimination and “lived” experience of zombies in his work, The Zombie Political Economy (2009).
In contrast to Caribbean traditions, Moneybags suggests that zombies developed out of capitalism as the ultimate form of reserve army of labor. The construct of interest in this discussion is one of interchangeable workers, or what Marx calls surplus labor, which represent the foundation for the development of capitalism and industrialization. It is argued that capitalism in western civilizations was developed based on workers’ fear of being replaced. Zombies remind us that there is always someone who will do the same job as us, but cheaper and more mindlessly.
In an effort to both promote the use of zombie workers and to ensure that this labor force remains subdued, capitalism promotes the widely held belief that zombies are willing to work for brains. Russell (2002) argues that the capitalist system intentionally places some groups of people in the surplus and out of employment arena. She refers to this phenomenon as a “compulsory unemployment.” Capitalism, as conceptualized within modern neoliberal discourse, is in constant need of reinforcing the established free market to preserve the status quo. Zombies, according to Moneybags’ theory of zombie political economy, were designed to play this role and act as the ultimate surplus labor. Employers do not seek to hire people that have been summarily portrayed by society as monsters and who they feel would foster a dangerous work environment. If a change is not made, they will forever remain surplus labor. How can we get zombies to be more fun in the workplace? At this point it is unlikely that instituting “Wacky Tie Day” will be enough.
Depictions of zombies in film continue to show them attempting to get into a shopping mall while a handful of humans struggle to keep them out, this is NOT a commentary on contemporary capitalist society per se but rather the film-makers’ sympathetic portrayal of the ways that zombies are barred from participating in the traditional capitalist system. Why zombies? Why should capitalism need to design such threatening creatures to secure surplus labor? Labor is highly valued within capitalistic and Western societies. According to the theory of political economy, capitalist and neoliberal society needed to design such a surplus group of laborers considered less than human. Zombies don’t just represent this group, they are becoming it. They are part of society, but placed on the absolute periphery and ostracized, so far from the center and inclusion that they could never seek a chance for participation in society, doomed to wander the Earth in search of meaning. Given the structural discrimination against Zombies they are unable to work and therefore cannot become valued members of society. Thus, they represent a symbol for everything that non-workers are in capitalism.
There is another reason why neoliberal capitalism created zombies. There are segments of our society that do not work for various unexplainable and immoral reasons. While they once acted at the behest of their Voodoo masters, Zombies now serve the capitalist ruling discourse to draw comparison between zombies and the other nonproductive, lazy and worthless parts of society. In fact, zombies are nothing but a blessing for neoliberal discourse in the First World. In conclusion, while some T-Shirts would like us to think that “Zombies just want hugs” the truth is that zombies just want a fair wage, suitable housing, and for god sake, let them in the malls!
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