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‘Amazon – a Modern capitalist microcosm’

22 Apr

The left-communist group the Communist Workers Organization have published an article on Amazon and its working conditions. It is quite heavy going but well worth the read as someone who used to work there myself.

Amazon employs 100,000 permanent people in 89 of these warehouses around the world. Starting off as an internet bookselling business, Amazon has expanded into almost every commodity area of the personal consumer. It was floated on the stock market in 1997, since when its turnover has gone up 420 times to $62 billion in 2012. And to the continuing surprise of most commentators it continues to register an ever higher share price (at over $400 it has increased ten times since the launch). The surprise about its rapidly rising share price is that Amazon has yet to register an annual profit. For those who argued in the 1980s that only the bottom line (i.e. the profit) counted, this is a surprise, but Amazon has risen at a time when speculation is the name of the game. According to its supporters its shares are being bought not because Amazon is currently profitable but because it is expanding so rapidly all the profits are ploughed back into new warehouses[1] (sorry, “fulfilment centres”) which in their time will give Amazon such a global retail monopoly that it will be able to name its price for everything and thus become immensely profitable. Not bad for a company that actually produces nothing itself. The argument for investor confidence is a bit like that used by European imperialists during the scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century. The actual colonies that were acquired were never profitable but they were acquired on the basis that one day they would be (and if one country did not grab them than another would).

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