Re: Marx and whether his theories apply to what is happening in today's modern workplace
Factory workers in the 1850s might find discussion of ergonomic desks and wrist pads for keyboards slightly petty. Improvements to their work conditions would more likely be related to the brutal physical conditions their jobs demanded of them—extreme exposure to heat and cold, poor light and ventilation, machines which moved about them dangerously and with poor safety mechanisms, and the constant occurrence of infection and illness from the hazardous conditions of the contaminated and over-crowded factories. Wages were not negotiated like they are in today’s white collar jobs, wages were fixed and one was happy to have a job after waiting outdoors all day to be picked among other men, women and children forced to work 14 hour days (10 for women and children) in slave-like conditions. If you didn’t like it, help yourself out the door, there are others waiting for your spot in the factory. Mortality and illness rates in factories were high (no workers compensation here) and the threats employees faced in those days are not comparable to the plight white-collar workers face today.
It is true that benefits and employment are down from other recent decades in many industries, but no one is in imminent danger of dying because their employer is not matching their 401K contribution. In contrast to my view of today’s labor conditions, Fraser likens today’s workplace to a sweatshop, one in which she says is part of a “downward spiral for America’s corporate middle class”. Her demonizing of corporate management is reminiscent of Marx’s theories on labor and class conflict, which also blame corporate management (or in his time, the capitalists or the bourgeoisie) for exploiting the proletariat. Not only does Fraser’s victimizing theory seem to be in line with Marxist thought, but the two also seem the share a view of why this happens to the worker....
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