Jack Saturday

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Anti-Job Quote Of The Week 26

In our society, then, work is defined as the act by which an employee contracts out her or his labour power as property in the person to an employer for fair monetary compensation. This way of describing work, of understanding it as a fair exchange between two equals, hides the real relationship between employer and employee: that of domination and subordination. For if the truth behind the employment contract were widely known, workers in our society would refuse to work, because they would see that it is impossible for human individuals to truly separate out labour power from themselves. "Property in the person" doesn't really exist as something that an individual can simply sell as a separate thing. Machinists cannot just detach from themselves the specific skills needed by an employer; those skills are part of an organic whole that cannot be disengaged from the entire person, similarly, sex appeal is an intrinsic part of exotic dancers, and it is incomprehensible how such a constitutive, intangible characteristic could be severed from the dancers themselves. A dancer has to be totally present in order to dance, just like a machinist must be totally present in order to work; neither can just send their discrete skills to do the work for them. Whether machinist, dancer, teacher, secretary, or pharmacist, it is not only one's skills that are being sold to an employer, it is also one's very being. When employees contract out their labour power as property in the person to employers, what is really happening is that employees are selling their own self determination, their own wills, their own freedom. In short, they are, during their hours of employment, slaves.

L. Susan Brown
Does Work Really Work?


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