Wage labour

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Wage labour (also wage labor in American English) is the socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employer, where the worker sells their labour power under a formal or informal employment contract. [1] These transactions usually occur in a labour market where wages or salaries are market-determined. [2]

American English Set of dialects of the English language spoken in the United States

American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. American English is globally considered to be one of the most influential dialects in the world; more so than any other dialect of English.

Socioeconomics is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how societies progress, stagnate, or regress because of their local or regional economy, or the global economy. Societies are divided into 3 groups: social, cultural and economic.

The workforce or labour force is the labour pool in employment. It is generally used to describe those working for a single company or industry, but can also apply to a geographic region like a city, state, or country. Within a company, its value can be labelled as its "Workforce in Place". The workforce of a country includes both the employed and the unemployed. The labour force participation rate, LFPR, is the ratio between the labour force and the overall size of their cohort. The term generally excludes the employers or management, and can imply those involved in manual labour. It may also mean all those who are available for work.

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In exchange for the money paid as wages (usual for short-term work-contracts) or salaries (in permanent employment contracts), the work product generally becomes the undifferentiated property of the employer, except for special cases such as the vesting of intellectual property patents in the United States where patent rights are usually vested in the employee personally responsible for the invention. A wage labourer is a person whose primary means of income is from the selling of their labour in this way.

In the copyright law of the United States, a work made for hire is a work subject to copyright that is created by an employee as part of his or her job, or some limited types of works for which all parties agree in writing to the WFH designation. Work for hire is a statutorily defined term, so a work for hire is not created merely because parties to an agreement state that the work is a work for hire. It is an exception to the general rule that the person who actually creates a work is the legally recognized author of that work. According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is "made for hire", the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author. In some countries, this is known as corporate authorship. The entity serving as an employer may be a corporation or other legal entity, an organization, or an individual.

Intellectual property Notion of ownership of ideas and processes

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize more than others. The most well-known types are copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Early precursors to some types of intellectual property existed in societies such as Ancient Rome, but the modern concept of intellectual property developed in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. The term "intellectual property" began to be used in the 19th century, though it was not until the late 20th century that intellectual property became commonplace in the majority of the world's legal systems.

Freelance, freelancer, and freelance worker, are terms commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Freelance workers are sometimes represented by a company or a temporary agency that resells freelance labor to clients; others work independently or use professional associations or websites to get work.

Characteristics

In modern mixed economies such as those of the OECD countries, it is currently the most common form of work arrangement. Although most labour is organised as per this structure, the wage work arrangements of CEOs, professional employees, and professional contract workers are sometimes conflated with class assignments, so that "wage labour" is considered to apply only to unskilled, semi-skilled or manual labour.

OECD international economic organisation

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 36 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. It is a forum of countries describing themselves as committed to democracy and the market economy, providing a platform to compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practices and coordinate domestic and international policies of its members. Most OECD members are high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index (HDI) and are regarded as developed countries. As of 2017, the OECD member countries collectively comprised 62.2% of global nominal GDP and 42.8% of global GDP at purchasing power parity. The OECD is an official United Nations observer.

Working class Social class composed of members of the society employed in lower tier jobs

The working class comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. Working-class occupations include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

Manual labour physical work done by people

Manual labour or manual work is physical work done by people, most especially in contrast to that done by machines, and to that done by working animals. It is most literally work done with the hands, and, by figurative extension, it is work done with any of the muscles and bones of the body. For most of human prehistory and history, manual labour and its close cousin, animal labour, have been the primary ways that physical work has been accomplished. Mechanisation and automation, which reduce the need for human and animal labour in production, have existed for centuries, but it was only starting in the 18th and 19th centuries that they began to significantly expand and to change human culture. To be implemented, they require that sufficient technology exist and that its capital costs be justified by the amount of future wages that they will obviate. Semi-automation is an alternative to worker displacement that combines human labour, automation, and computerization to leverage the advantages of both man and machine.

Types

The most common form of wage labour currently is ordinary direct, or "full-time". This is employment in which a free worker sells their labour for an indeterminate time (from a few years to the entire career of the worker), in return for a money-wage or salary and a continuing relationship with the employer which it does not in general offer contractors or other irregular staff. However, wage labour takes many other forms, and explicit as opposed to implicit (i.e. conditioned by local labour and tax law) contracts are not uncommon. Economic history shows a great variety of ways, in which labour is traded and exchanged. The differences show up in the form of:

Self-employment is the state of working for oneself rather than an employer.

Apprenticeship System of employment

An apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study. Apprenticeships can also enable practitioners to gain a license to practice in a regulated profession. Most of their training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade or profession, in exchange for their continued labor for an agreed period after they have achieved measurable competencies. Apprenticeship lengths vary significantly across sectors, professions, roles and cultures. People who successfully complete an apprenticeship in some cases can reach the "journeyman" or professional certification level of competence. In others can be offered a permanent job at the company that provided the placement. Although the formal boundaries and terminology of the apprentice/journeyman/master system often do not extend outside guilds and trade unions, the concept of on-the-job training leading to competence over a period of years is found in any field of skilled labor.

Slavery System under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work

Slavery is any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property. A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration. Many scholars now use the term chattel slavery to refer to this specific sense of legalized, de jure slavery. In a broader sense, however, the word slavery may also refer to any situation in which an individual is de facto forced to work against their own will. Scholars also use the more generic terms such as unfree labour or forced labour to refer to such situations. However, and especially under slavery in broader senses of the word, slaves may have some rights and protections according to laws or customs.

Criticisms

Wage labour has long been compared to slavery by socialists. [3] [4] [5] [6] As a result, the term "wage slavery" is often utilised as a pejorative for wage labour. [7] Similarly, advocates of slavery looked upon the "comparative evils of Slave Society and of Free Society, of slavery to human Masters and slavery to Capital," [8] and proceeded to argue persuasively that wage slavery was actually worse than chattel slavery. [9] Slavery apologists like George Fitzhugh contended that workers only accepted wage labour with the passage of time, as they became "familiarized and inattentive to the infected social atmosphere they continually inhale[d]". [8]

George Fitzhugh American activist

George Fitzhugh was an American social theorist who published racial and slavery-based sociological theories in the antebellum era. He argued that the negro "is but a grown up child" who needs the economic and social protections of slavery. Fitzhugh decried capitalism as spawning "a war of the rich with the poor, and the poor with one another" – rendering free blacks "far outstripped or outwitted in the chase of free competition." Slavery, he contended, ensured that blacks would be economically secure and morally civilized.

The slave, together with his labour-power, was sold to his owner once for all.... The [wage] labourer, on the other hand, sells his very self, and that by fractions.... He [belongs] to the capitalist class; and it is for him ... to find a buyer in this capitalist class. [10]

Karl Marx

According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book On the Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how "whatever does not spring from a man's free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness" and so when the labourer works under external control, "we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is." [11] Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations. [12] Additionally, as per anthropologist David Graeber, the earliest wage labour contracts we know about were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money, and the slave, another, with which to maintain their living expenses.) Such arrangements, according to Graeber, were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. [13] C. L. R. James argued in The Black Jacobins that most of the techniques of human organisation employed on factory workers during the industrial revolution were first developed on slave plantations. [14]

Noam Chomsky American linguist, philosopher and activist

Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called "the father of modern linguistics", Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He holds a joint appointment as Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and laureate professor at the University of Arizona, and is the author of more than 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.

Age of Enlightenment European cultural movement of the 18th century

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed, and equality before the law. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support limited government, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Yellow is the political colour most commonly associated with liberalism.

For Marxists, labour-as-commodity, which is how they regard wage labour, [15] provides a fundamental point of attack against capitalism. [16] "It can be persuasively argued," noted one concerned philosopher, "that the conception of the worker's labour as a commodity confirms Marx's stigmatisation of the wage system of private capitalism as 'wage-slavery;' that is, as an instrument of the capitalist's for reducing the worker's condition to that of a slave, if not below it." [17] That this objection is fundamental follows immediately from Marx's conclusion that wage labour is the very foundation of capitalism: "Without a class dependent on wages, the moment individuals confront each other as free persons, there can be no production of surplus value; without the production of surplus-value there can be no capitalist production, and hence no capital and no capitalist!" [18]

See also

Footnotes

  1. Steinfeld 2009 , p. 3: "All labor contracts were/are designed legally to bind a worker in one way or another to fulfill the labor obligations the worker has undertaken. That is one of the principal purposes of labor contracts."
  2. Deakin & Wilkinson 2005
  3. Thompson 1966 , p. 599.
  4. Thompson 1966 , p. 912.
  5. Ostergaard 1997 , p. 133.
  6. Lazonick 1990 , p. 37.
  7. Hallgrimsdottir & Benoit 2007; Roediger 2007a.
    The term is not without its critics, as Roediger 2007b , p. 247, notes: "[T]he challenge to loose connections of wage (or white) slavery to chattel slavery was led by Frederick Douglass and other Black, often fugitive, abolitionists. Their challenge was mercilessly concrete. Douglass, who tried out speeches in work places before giving them in halls, was far from unable to speak to or hear white workers, but he and William Wells Brown did challenge metaphors regarding white slavery sharply. They noted, for example, that their escapes from slavery had left job openings and wondered if any white workers wanted to take the jobs."
  8. 1 2 Fitzhugh 1857 , p.  xvi.
  9. Carsel 1940.
  10. Marx 1847, Chapter 2.
  11. Chomsky 1993 , p.  19.
  12. Thye & Lawler 2006.
  13. Graeber 2004 , p.  71.
  14. Graeber 2007 , p. 106.
  15. Marx 1990 , p. 1006: "[L]abour-power, a commodity sold by the worker himself."
  16. Another one, of course, being the capitalists' theft from workers via surplus-value.
  17. Nelson 1995 , p. 158. This Marxist objection is what motivated Nelson's essay, which argues that labour is not, in fact, a commodity.
  18. Marx 1990 , p. 1005. Emphasis in the original.
    See also p. 716: "[T]he capitalist produces [and reproduces] the worker as a wage-labourer. This incessant reproduction, this perpetuation of the worker, is the absolutely necessary condition for capitalist production."

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