Wage slavery
Overview
 
Wage slavery refers to a situation where a person's livelihood
Livelihood
A person's livelihood referers to "means of securing the necessities of life". For instance a fisherman's livelihood depends on the availability and accessibility of fish.- In social sciences :...

 depends on wage
Wage
A wage is a compensation, usually financial, received by workers in exchange for their labor.Compensation in terms of wages is given to workers and compensation in terms of salary is given to employees...

s, especially when the dependence is total and immediate. It is a negatively connoted
Connotation
A connotation is a commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word's or phrase's explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation....

 term used to draw an analogy between slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and wage labor, and to highlight similarities between owning
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and employing
Employment
Employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer and the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as:- Employee :...

 a person. The term 'wage slavery' has been used to criticize economic exploitation and social stratification
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g.
Encyclopedia
Wage slavery refers to a situation where a person's livelihood
Livelihood
A person's livelihood referers to "means of securing the necessities of life". For instance a fisherman's livelihood depends on the availability and accessibility of fish.- In social sciences :...

 depends on wage
Wage
A wage is a compensation, usually financial, received by workers in exchange for their labor.Compensation in terms of wages is given to workers and compensation in terms of salary is given to employees...

s, especially when the dependence is total and immediate. It is a negatively connoted
Connotation
A connotation is a commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word's or phrase's explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation....

 term used to draw an analogy between slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and wage labor, and to highlight similarities between owning
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and employing
Employment
Employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer and the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as:- Employee :...

 a person. The term 'wage slavery' has been used to criticize economic exploitation and social stratification
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops), and the latter as a lack of workers' self-management
Workers' self-management
Worker self-management is a form of workplace decision-making in which the workers themselves agree on choices instead of an owner or traditional supervisor telling workers what to do, how to do it and where to do it...

 (which criticizes the job choices that an economy allows). The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical social environment (i.e. working for a wage not only under threat of starvation
Starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

 or poverty
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

, but also of social stigma
Social stigma
Social stigma is the severe disapproval of or discontent with a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society.Almost all stigma is based on a person differing from social or cultural norms...

 or status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

 diminution).

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted at least as early as Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

. Before the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Southern defenders of African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 slavery invoked the concept to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North. With the advent of the industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

, thinkers such as Proudhon and Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery in the context of a critique of property not intended for active personal use.

The introduction of wage labor in 18th century Britain was met with resistance – giving rise to the principles of syndicalism
Syndicalism
Syndicalism is a type of economic system proposed as a replacement for capitalism and an alternative to state socialism, which uses federations of collectivised trade unions or industrial unions...

. Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists, have espoused workers' self-management
Workers' self-management
Worker self-management is a form of workplace decision-making in which the workers themselves agree on choices instead of an owner or traditional supervisor telling workers what to do, how to do it and where to do it...

 or worker cooperative
Worker cooperative
A worker cooperative is a cooperative owned and democratically managed by its worker-owners. This control may be exercised in a number of ways. A cooperative enterprise may mean a firm where every worker-owner participates in decision making in a democratic fashion, or it may refer to one in which...

s as possible alternatives to wage labor.

History

The first articulate description of wage slavery was perhaps made by Simon Linguet
Simon-Nicholas Henri Linguet
Simon-Nicholas Henri Linguet , French journalist and advocate, was born in Reims, where his father, the assistant principal in the Collège de Beauvais of Paris, had recently been exiled by lettre de cachet for engaging in the Jansenist controversy.He attended the College de Beauvais and won the...

 in 1763:‎
The view that wage work has substantial similarities with chattel slavery was actively put forward in the late 18th and 19th centuries by defenders of chattel slavery (most notably in the Southern states of the US), and by opponents of capitalism (who were also critics of chattel slavery). Some defenders of slavery, mainly from the Southern slave states
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 argued that workers were "free but in name – the slaves of endless toil," and that their slaves were better off. This contention has been partly corroborated by some modern studies that indicate slaves' material conditions in the 19th century were "better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time." In this period, Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist...

 wrote that “[i]t is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself.”

The description of wage workers as wage slaves was not without controversy. Many abolitionists in the U.S. including northern capitalists, regarded the analogy to be spurious. They believed that wage workers were "neither wronged nor oppressed". The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing...

 declared "Now I am my own master" when he took a paying job. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 and the republicans "did not challenge the notion that those who spend their entire lives as wage laborers were comparable to slaves", though they argued that the condition was different, as laborers were likely to have the opportunity to work for themselves in the future, achieving self-employment
Self-employment
Self-employment is working for one's self.Self-employed people can also be referred to as a person who works for himself/herself instead of an employer, but drawing income from a trade or business that they operate personally....

.

However, self-employment became less common as the artisan
Artisan
An artisan is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools...

 tradition slowly disappeared in the later part of the 19th century. In 1869 The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

 described the system of wage labor as "a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed at the South". E. P. Thompson
E. P. Thompson
Edward Palmer Thompson was a British historian, writer, socialist and peace campaigner. He is probably best known today for his historical work on the British radical movements in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in particular The Making of the English Working Class...

 notes that for British workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the "gap in status between a 'servant,' a hired wage-laborer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might 'come and go' as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right." A "Member of the Builders' Union" in the 1830s argued that the trade unions "will not only strike for less work, and more wages, but will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters and work for each other; labor and capital will no longer be separate but will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of workmen and work-women." This perspective inspired the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union
Grand National Consolidated Trades Union
The Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834 was an early attempt to form a national union confederation in the United Kingdom.There had been several attempts to form national general unions in the 1820s, culminating with the National Association for the Protection of Labour, established in...

 of 1834 which had the "two-fold purpose of syndicalist unions – the protection of the workers under the existing system and the formation of the nuclei of the future society" when the unions "take over the whole industry of the country." "Research has shown", summarises William Lazonick
William Lazonick
William Lazonick is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he directs the Center for Industrial Competitiveness. Previously he was employed as an Assistant and Associate Professor of Economics at Harvard University , Professor of Economics at Barnard College of Columbia...

, "that the 'free-born Englishman' of the eighteenth century – even those who, by force of circumstance, had to submit to agricultural wage labour – tenaciously resisted entry into the capitalist workshop."

The use of the term wage slave by labor organizations may originate from the labor protests of the Lowell Mill Girls
Lowell Mill Girls
"Lowell Mill Girls" was the name used for female textile workers in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the 19th century. The Lowell textile mills employed a workforce which was about three quarters female; this characteristic caused two social effects: a close examination of the women's moral behavior, and...

 in 1836. The imagery of wage slavery was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century to object to the lack of workers' self-management. However, it was gradually replaced by the more neutral term "wage work" towards the end of the 19th century, as labor organizations shifted their focus to raising wages.

Karl Marx described Capitalist society as infringing on individual autonomy
Autonomy
Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision...

, by basing it on a materialistic and commodified concept of the body and its liberty (i.e. as something that is sold, rented or alienated
Social alienation
The term social alienation has many discipline-specific uses; Roberts notes how even within the social sciences, it “is used to refer both to a personal psychological state and to a type of social relationship”...

 in a class society). According to Marx:
Proponents of the viewpoint that the condition of wage workers has substantial similarities (as well as some advantages and disadvantages) vis a vis chattel slavery, argued that:
  1. Since the chattel slave is property, his value to an owner is in some ways higher than that of a worker who may quit, be fired or replaced. The chattel slave's owner has made a greater investment in terms of the money he paid for the slave. For this reason, in times of recession, chattel slaves could not be fired like wage laborers. A "wage slave" could also be harmed at no (or less) cost. American chattel slaves in the 19th century had improved their standard of living from the 18th century and, according to historians Fogel and Engerman plantation records show that slaves worked less, were better fed and whipped only occasionally—their material conditions in the 19th century being "better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time". This was partially due to slave psychological strategies under an economic system different from capitalist wage slavery. According to Mark Michael Smith of the Economic History Society: "although intrusive and oppressive, paternalism, the way masters employed it, and the methods slaves used to manipulate it, rendered slaveholders' attempts to institute capitalistic work regimens on their plantation ineffective and so allowed slaves to carve out a degree of autonomy." Similarly, various strategies and struggles adopted by wage laborers contributed to the creation of labor unions and welfare institutions, etc. that helped improve standards of living since the beginning of the industrial revolution
    Industrial Revolution
    The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

    . Nevertheless, worldwide, work-related injuries and illnesses still kill at least 2.2 million workers per year with "between 184 and 208 million workers suffer[ing] from work-related diseases" and about "270 million" non-lethal injuries of varying severity "caused by preventable factors at the workplace".--a number that may or may not compare favorably with chattel slavery's.
  2. Unlike a chattel slave, a wage laborer can choose between employers, but they usually constitute a minority of owners in the population for which the wage laborer must work, while attempts to implement workers' control
    Workers' control
    Workers' control is a term meaning participation in the management of factories and other commercial enterprises by the people who work there. It has been variously advocated by anarchists, socialists, Communists, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, and has been combined with various...

     on employers' businesses may be met with violence or other unpleasant consequences. The wage laborer's starkest choice is to work for an employer or face poverty or starvation. If a chattel slave refuses to work, a number of punishments are also available; from beatings to food deprivation—although economically rational slave owners practiced positive reinforcement
    Reinforcement
    Reinforcement is a term in operant conditioning and behavior analysis for the process of increasing the rate or probability of a behavior in the form of a "response" by the delivery or emergence of a stimulus Reinforcement is a term in operant conditioning and behavior analysis for the process of...

     to achieve best results and before losing their investment (or even friendship) by killing an expensive slave.
  3. Historically, the range of occupations and status positions held by chattel slaves has been nearly as broad as that held by free persons, indicating some similarities between chattel slavery and wage slavery as well.
  4. Arguably, wage slavery, like chattel slavery, does not stem from some immutable "human nature," but represents a "specific response to material and historical conditions" that "reproduce[s] the inhabitants, the social relations… the ideas… [and] the social form of daily life."
  5. Similarities were blurred by the fact that proponents of wage labor won the American Civil War
    American Civil War
    The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

    , in which they competed for legitimacy with defenders of chattel slavery. Both presented an over-positive assessment of their system, while denigrating the opponent.


The similarities between chattel and wage slavery were noticed by the workers themselves. For example, the 19th century Lowell Mill Girls
Lowell Mill Girls
"Lowell Mill Girls" was the name used for female textile workers in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the 19th century. The Lowell textile mills employed a workforce which was about three quarters female; this characteristic caused two social effects: a close examination of the women's moral behavior, and...

, who, without any knowledge of European radicalism, condemned the "degradation and subordination" of the newly emerging industrial system, and the "new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self", maintaining that "those who work in the mills should own them."
They expressed their concerns in a protest song during their 1836 strike:

:Oh! isn't it a pity, such a pretty girl as I
Should be sent to the factory to pine away and die?
Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave,
For I'm so fond of liberty,
That I cannot be a slave.


The term 'wage slavery' was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century, but the structural changes associated with the later stages of industrial capitalism, including "increased centralization of production... declining wages... [an] expanding... labor pool... intensifying competition, and... [t]he loss of competence and independence experienced by skilled labor" meant that "a critique that referred to all [wage] work as slavery and avoided demands for wage concessions in favor of supporting the creation of the producerist republic (by diverting strike funds towards funding... co-operatives, for example) was far less compelling than one that identified the specific conditions of slavery as low wages..." Thus, "wage slavery" was gradually replaced by the more pragmatic term "wage work" towards the end of the 19th century.

Some supporters of wage and chattel slavery have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to nature; arguing that hierarchy and their preferred system's particular relations of production represent human nature and are no more coercive than the reality of life itself. According to this narrative, any well-intentioned attempt to fundamentally change the status quo is naively utopian and will result in more oppressive conditions. Bosses in both of these long-lasting systems argued that their system created a lot of wealth and prosperity. Both did, in some sense create jobs and their investment entailed risk. For example, slave owners might have risked losing money by buying expensive slaves who later became ill or died; or might have used those slaves to make products that didn't sell well on the market. Marginally, both chattel and wage slaves may become bosses; sometimes by working hard. It may be the "rags to riches" story which occasionally occurs in capitalism, or the "slave to master" story that occurred in places like colonial Brazil, where slaves could buy their own freedom and become business owners, self-employed, or slave owners themselves. Social mobility, or the hard work and risk that it may entail, are thus not considered to be a redeeming factor by critics of the concept of wage slavery.

Anthropologist David Graeber
David Graeber
David Rolfe Graeber is an American anthropologist and anarchist who currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University, although Yale controversially declined to rehire him, and his...

 has noted that, historically, the first wage labor contracts we know about—whether in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Malay or Swahili city states in the Indian ocean—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 his or her living expenses.) Such arrangements were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. C. L. R. James made a famous argument that most of the techniques of human organization employed on factory workers during the industrial revolution were first developed on slave plantations.

Treatment in various economic systems

The term 'wage slavery' or 'wage slave' has been used to describe the condition of workers in various economic systems, including communist state
Communist state
A communist state is a state with a form of government characterized by single-party rule or dominant-party rule of a communist party and a professed allegiance to a Leninist or Marxist-Leninist communist ideology as the guiding principle of the state...

s, but given the prevalence of modern capitalism, it is sometimes described as a lack of rights
Rights
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

 in the market system; especially in the absence of non-market structures stemming from some degree of democratic input (welfare system, retirement income, health insurance, etc.). The concept seeks to point out how the only rights workers have are those they gain in the labor market
Market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

. Workers face starvation when unable or unwilling to rent themselves to those who own the capital and means of production. Capitalists, landowners, or sometimes a state elite, own the means of production (land, industry etc.) and gain profit or power simply from granting permission to use them. This they do in exchange for wages. The 19th century economist Henry George
Henry George
Henry George was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land...

 argued that the market economy could be reformed by making land common property. In his view, people should own the productive results of their efforts, but that everything found in nature, most importantly land, should belong equally to everyone in society.

Those who say they oppose 'wage slavery' usually favor possessions for active personal use, but oppose the 'freedom' to use property for the exploitation of others (non-labor income e.g. rent, interest etc.); claiming that private ownership of the means of production is theft, and that the finite nature of the earth imposes moral restrictions on the right to acquire unlimited property. Given that workers are the majority, they believe that the elite maintain wage slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and a divided working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry, educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 violence, fear of unemployment
Unemployment
Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

 and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory:

Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

 noted that employers often conspire together to keep wages low:

Capitalism

Wage slavery as a concept can be a general criticism of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

, defined as a condition in which a capitalist class (a minority of the population) controls all of the necessary non-human components of production (capital
Capital (economics)
In economics, capital, capital goods, or real capital refers to already-produced durable goods used in production of goods or services. The capital goods are not significantly consumed, though they may depreciate in the production process...

, land, industry, etc.) that workers use to produce goods. This sort of criticism is generally associated with socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and anarchist criticisms of capitalism, and could conceivably be traced back to pre-capitalist figures like Gerrard Winstanley
Gerrard Winstanley
Gerrard Winstanley was an English Protestant religious reformer and political activist during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell...

 from the radical Christian Diggers movement in England, who wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there "shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man," and "there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself."

Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 made the statement "[a]ll paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind". Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 wrote in 44 BC that "…vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery."
Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

, like Henry George
Henry George
Henry George was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land...

, Silvio Gesell
Silvio Gesell
Silvio Gesell was a German merchant, theoretical economist, social activist, anarchist and founder of Freiwirtschaft.-Life:...

 and Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

, as well as the Distributist
Distributism
Distributism is a third-way economic philosophy formulated by such Catholic thinkers as G. K...

 school of thought within the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. Criticism of capitalism on these grounds, however, might not always be connected to the belief that one should have freedom
Freedom (political)
Political freedom is a central philosophy in Western history and political thought, and one of the most important features of democratic societies...

 to work without a boss.

To Marx and anarchist thinkers like Bakunin and Kropotkin
Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin was a Russian prince and anarchist.Kropotkin may also refer to:*Pyotr Nikolayevich Kropotkin , Soviet/Russian geologist, tectonician, and geophysicist*Mount Kropotkin, a peak in Antarctica...

 their concept of wage slavery was as a class condition in place due to the existence of private property
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

 and the state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

. This class situation rested primarily on:
  1. the existence of property not intended for active use,
  2. the concentration of ownership in few hands,
  3. the lack of direct access by workers to the means of production
    Means of production
    Means of production refers to physical, non-human inputs used in production—the factories, machines, and tools used to produce wealth — along with both infrastructural capital and natural capital. This includes the classical factors of production minus financial capital and minus human capital...

     and consumption goods
  4. the perpetuation of a reserve army of unemployed workers
    Reserve army of labour
    Reserve army of labour is a concept in Karl Marx's critique of political economy. It refers basically to the unemployed in capitalist society. It is synonymous with "industrial reserve army" or "relative surplus population", except that the unemployed can be defined as those actually looking for...

    .


and secondarily on:
  1. the waste of workers' efforts and resources on producing useless luxuries;
  2. the waste of goods so that their price may remain high; and
  3. the waste of all those who sit between the producer and consumer, taking their own shares at each stage without actually contributing to the production of goods.


Though stock ownership remains highly concentrated in capitalist societies, some workers complement their wage earnings with stock market investments. This can create a conflict of interest when stock profits require outsourcing of jobs or lowering of wages and other benefits.

Wage laborers and their families incur debt from financial institutions to compensate for insufficient earnings. According to economist Steve Keen
Steve Keen
Steve Keen is a Professor in economics and finance at the University of Western Sydney. He classes himself as a post-Keynesian, criticizing both modern neoclassical economics and Marxian economics as inconsistent, unscientific and empirically unsupported...

, the "deleveraging" moments when they (or the governments they live under) pay down debt instead of spending on consumption or investment in real-economy infrastructure, result in economic crises or even depressions (such as The Great Depression).
The lack of aggregate demand
Aggregate demand
In macroeconomics, aggregate demand is the total demand for final goods and services in the economy at a given time and price level. It is the amount of goods and services in the economy that will be purchased at all possible price levels. This is the demand for the gross domestic product of a...

 caused by low wages and low unionization, as well as the higher wages that create inflation--as capitalists pass increased labor costs onto consumers-- are important factors in the the creation of the business cycle
Business cycle
The term business cycle refers to economy-wide fluctuations in production or economic activity over several months or years...

.

Communism

While movements labeled as communist have, partly in reaction to poverty, arisen more pervasively in the 3rd world, there is arguably as much variety (e.g. in economic policies, popular participation, atrocity levels etc.) among states termed "communist" as there is among states termed "capitalist"-- in spite of the lack of distinctions (as well as propagandistic labeling) that have been applied due to elite ideological influence in the wage systems of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. These two states preserved and expanded the institutions of wage slavery by simultaneously identifying Soviet state brutality and destruction of workers' councils with socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 in order to either vilify these political movements, or as in the USSR, exploit the aura of their ideals (esp. opposition to wage slavery).

Fascism

Fascism was more discriminating of trade unions than modern economies in Europe or the United States. Fascist economic policies were widely accepted in the 1920s and 30s and foreign (especially US) corporate investment in Italy and Germany increased after the fascist take over. In Germany, this foreign investment, in conjunction with Hitler's economic policies, led to economic growth and an increase in the standard of living of some Germans, though critics do not believe that such improvements justify fascism nor wage slavery. Focusing largely on US support for the Latin American "National Security States," Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman
Edward S. Herman
Edward S. Herman is an American economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media. He is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also teaches at Annenberg School for...

 argue that U.S. corporations support (and in many instances create) fascist (or "sub" and "neo"-fascist) terror states in order to create a favorable investment climate.

Fascism has been perceived by some notable critics, like Buenaventura Durruti
Buenaventura Durruti
José Buenaventura Durruti Dumange was a central figure of Spanish anarchism during the period leading up to and including the Spanish Civil War.-Early life:...

, to be a last resort weapon of the privileged to ensure the maintenance of wage slavery:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.

Opinions on psychological effects

According to Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 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 laborer works under external control, "we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is."
Both the Milgram
Milgram experiment
The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of notable social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that...

 and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.

Self-Identity Problems and Stress

According to research, modern work provides people with a sense of personal and social identity that is tied to

1) the particular work role, even if unfulfilling; and

2) the social role it entails e.g. family bread-winning, friendship forming etc.

Thus job loss entails the loss of this identity.
Psychiatrist Dayal Mirchandani thinks this problem has become important enough that humans should "divorce [their] self-image from [their] job and from the perks it provides."

Erich Fromm
Erich Fromm
Erich Seligmann Fromm was a Jewish German-American social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory.-Life:Erich Fromm was born on March 23, 1900, at Frankfurt am...

 noted that if a person perceives himself as being what he owns, then when that person loses (or even thinks of losing) what he "owns" (e.g. the good looks or sharp mind that allow him to sell his labor for high wages), then, a fear of loss may create anxiety and authoritarian tendencies because that person's sense of identity is threatened. In contrast, when a person's sense of self is based on what he experiences in a state of being (creativity, love, sadness, taste, sight etc.) with a less materialistic regard for what he once had and lost, or may lose, then less authoritarian tendencies prevail. The state of being, in his view, flourishes under a worker-managed workplace and economy, whereas self-ownership entails a materialistic notion of self, created to rationalize the lack of worker control that would allow for a state of being.

Due to this lack of control, the exploited worker, according to Marx, "puts his life into the object... [and thus] the greater his activity...the less he possesses...[H]is labour becomes an object...[and] the life which he has given to the object sets itself against him as an alien and hostile force" And since the worker could be working for wages or saving money instead of enjoying life or having fun, (which in a capitalist society often costs money), "all passions and all activity is submerged in avarice...[and] the less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life."

Investigative journalist Robert Kuttner
Robert Kuttner
Robert Kuttner is an American journalist and writer. Kuttner is the co-founder and current co-editor of The American Prospect, which was created in 1990 as "an authoritative magazine of liberal ideas," according to its mission statement...

 in Everything for Sale, analyzes the work of public-Health scholars Jeffrey Johnson and Ellen Hall about modern conditions of work, and concludes that "to be in a life situation where one experiences relentless demands by others, over which one has relatively little control, is to be at risk of poor health, physically as well as mentally." Under wage labor, "a relatively small elite demands and gets empowerment, self-actualization, autonomy, and other work satisfaction that partially compensate for long hours" while "epidemiological data confirm that lower-paid, lower-status workers are more likely to experience the most clinically damaging forms of stress, in part because they have less control over their work."

Wage slavery, and the educational system that precedes it "implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption… in spite of… good intentions … [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his … [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being 'the men' … In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy." For the "leader", such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader "sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion." Wage slavery "implies erosion of the human personality… [because] some men submit to the will of others, arousing in these instincts which predispose them to cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of their fellows."

Higher wages

In 19th century discussions of labor relations, it was normally assumed that the threat of starvation forced those without property to work for wages. Proponents of the view that modern forms of employment constitute wage slavery, even when workers appear to have a range of available alternatives, have attributed its perpetuation to a variety of social factors that maintain the hegemony
Cultural hegemony
Cultural hegemony is the philosophic and sociological theory, by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, that a culturally diverse society can be dominated by one social class, by manipulating the societal culture so that its ruling-class worldview is imposed as the societal norm, which then is...

 of the employer class. These include efforts at Manufacturing Consent
Manufacturing Consent
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media , by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, is an analysis of the news media as business...

 and eliciting false consciousness.

In his book, Disciplined Minds
Disciplined Minds
Disciplined Minds is a book by physicist Jeff Schmidt, published in the year 2000. The book describes how professionals are made; the methods of professional and graduate schools that turn eager entering students into disciplined managerial and intellectual workers that correctly perceive and...

, Jeff Schmidt
Jeff Schmidt (writer)
Jeff Schmidt is a physicist who wrote Disciplined Minds, a critique of the socialization and training of professionals. Schmidt was fired from his job of 19 years as an associate editor for Physics Today, the magazine of the American Institute of Physics , on allegations that he wrote the book on...

 points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interests–or skewers the disfavored ones” in the absence of overt control:

Lower wages

The terms "employee" or "worker" have often been replaced by "associate". This plays up the allegedly voluntary nature of the interaction, while playing down the subordinate status of the wage laborer, as well as the worker-boss class distinction emphasized by labor movements.

Billboards, as well as TV, Internet and newspaper advertisements, consistently show low-wage workers with smiles on their faces, appearing happy.

Job interviews and other data on requirements for lower skilled workers in developed countries—particularly in the growing service sector—indicate that the more workers depend on low wages, and the less skilled or desirable their job is, the more employers screen for workers without better employment options and expect them to feign unremunerative motivation.
Such screening and feigning may not only contribute to the positive self-image of the employer as someone granting desirable employment, but also signal wage-dependence by indicating the employee's willingness to feign, which in turn may discourage the dissatisfaction normally associated with job-switching or union activity.

At the same time, employers in the service industry have justified unstable, part-time employment and low wages by playing down the importance of service jobs for the lives of the wage laborers (e.g. just temporary before finding something better, student summer jobs etc.).

In the early 20th century, "scientific methods of strikebreaking" were devised—employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined "harmony" and "Americanism".

Lowest wages

In the 21st century Dubai
Dubai
Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates . The emirate is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the second-largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi...

, employers pay low wages to many workers—often less than £120 ($180) a month, for a 60-hour work week. Often 'employment contracts', if they are given, "are not worth the paper they are written on," and collective bargaining
Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and the representatives of a unit of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions...

 and trade unions are illegal in Dubai. It all starts in their home countries, often India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 or Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, where local recruitment agents promise them high salaries and generous overtime payments. In these workers' home countries they are charged a "visa" or "transit" fee, averaging 200,000 taka, or £2,000 ($2,980), which in these home countries is supposed to be illegal. Extended families often contribute by taking out loans or selling ancestral lands to raise the money needed. Families see the money paid as an investment, since they believe the promises made to them about future wages. While such high returns are occasionally possible, this is increasingly less so today. Nowadays it generally takes the entire 2-3 year contract for them just to pay back that fee and break even.

In another contemporary case unions representing teachers in Louisiana have filed a complaint with state authorities alleging that a Los Angeles recruiting firm broke the law by holding more than 350 Filipino teachers in 'virtual servitude' in order to hold onto their jobs in five Louisiana parish school systems, including New Orleans' Recovery School District.

Workers' self-management

Some social activists objecting to the market system
Market system
A market system is any systematic process enabling many market players to bid and ask: helping bidders and sellers interact and make deals. It is not just the price mechanism but the entire system of regulation, qualification, credentials, reputations and clearing that surrounds that mechanism and...

 or price system
Price system
In economics, a price system is any economic system that affects its distribution of goods and services with prices and employing any form of money. Except for possible remote and primitive communities, all modern societies use price systems to allocate resources...

 of wage working, historically have considered syndicalism
Syndicalism
Syndicalism is a type of economic system proposed as a replacement for capitalism and an alternative to state socialism, which uses federations of collectivised trade unions or industrial unions...

, worker cooperative
Worker cooperative
A worker cooperative is a cooperative owned and democratically managed by its worker-owners. This control may be exercised in a number of ways. A cooperative enterprise may mean a firm where every worker-owner participates in decision making in a democratic fashion, or it may refer to one in which...

s, workers' self-management
Workers' self-management
Worker self-management is a form of workplace decision-making in which the workers themselves agree on choices instead of an owner or traditional supervisor telling workers what to do, how to do it and where to do it...

 and workers' control
Workers' control
Workers' control is a term meaning participation in the management of factories and other commercial enterprises by the people who work there. It has been variously advocated by anarchists, socialists, Communists, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, and has been combined with various...

 as possible alternatives to the current wage system.

Labor and government

The American philosopher John Dewey
John Dewey
John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology...

 believed that until "industrial feudalism" is replaced by "industrial democracy," politics will be "the shadow cast on society by big business". Thomas Ferguson
Thomas Ferguson (academic)
Thomas Ferguson is an American political scientist and author who studies and writes on politics and economics, often within a historical perspective. He is a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a member of the advisory board for George Soros' Institute for...

 has postulated in his investment theory of party competition
Investment theory of party competition
The Investment theory of party competition is a political theory developed by University of Massachusetts professor Thomas Ferguson. The theory focuses on how business elites, not voters, play the leading part in political systems...

 that the undemocratic nature of economic institutions under capitalism causes elections to become occasions when blocs of investors coalesce and compete to control the state.

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

 has argued that political theory tends to blur the 'elite' function of government:
In this regard Chomsky has used Bakunin's theories about an "instinct for freedom", the militant history of labor movements, Kropotkin
Kropotkin
Peter Kropotkin was a Russian prince and anarchist.Kropotkin may also refer to:*Pyotr Nikolayevich Kropotkin , Soviet/Russian geologist, tectonician, and geophysicist*Mount Kropotkin, a peak in Antarctica...

's mutual aid evolutionary principle of survival and Marc Hauser
Marc Hauser
Marc D. Hauser is an American evolutionary biologist and a researcher in primate behavior and animal cognition who taught in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. In August 2010, a committee of Harvard faculty found Hauser solely responsible for eight counts of unspecified scientific...

's theories supporting an innate and universal moral faculty, to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.

Influence on environmental degradation

Loyola University
Loyola University New Orleans
Loyola University New Orleans is a private, co-educational and Jesuit university located in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. Originally established as Loyola College in 1904, the institution was chartered as a university in 1912. It bears the name of the Jesuit patron, Saint Ignatius of Loyola...

 philosophy professor John Clark and libertarian socialist philosopher Murray Bookchin
Murray Bookchin
Murray Bookchin was an American libertarian socialist author, orator, and philosopher. A pioneer in the ecology movement, Bookchin was the founder of the social ecology movement within anarchist, libertarian socialist and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books on politics,...

 have criticized the system of wage labor for encouraging environmental destruction, arguing that a self-managed industrial society would better manage the environment. They, like other anarchists, attribute much of the industrial revolution's pollution to the "hierarchical" and "competitive" economic relations accompanying it.

Employment contracts

Some criticize wage slavery on strictly contractual grounds, e.g. David Ellerman
David Ellerman
David P. Ellerman is a philosopher and author who works in the fields of economics and political economy, social theory and philosophy, and in mathematics...

 and Carole Pateman
Carole Pateman
Carole Pateman is a British feminist and political theorist. She earned a DPhil at the University of Oxford. Since 1990, Professor Pateman has taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of California at Los Angeles . In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the British Academy...

, arguing that the employment contract
Employment contract
A contract of employment is a category of contract used in labour law to attribute right and responsibilities between parties to a bargain.On the one end stands an "employee" who is "employed" by an "employer". It has arisen out of the old master-servant law, used before the 20th century...

 is a legal fiction in that it treats human beings juridically as mere tools or inputs by abdicating responsibility and self-determination, which the critics argue are inalienable. As Ellerman points out, "[t]he employee is legally transformed from being a co-responsible partner to being only an input supplier sharing no legal responsibility for either the input liabilities [costs] or the produced outputs [revenue, profits] of the employer’s business." Such contracts are inherently invalid "since the person remain[s] a de facto fully capacitated adult person with only the contractual role of a non-person . . ." as it is impossible to physically transfer self-determination. As Pateman argues:

"The contractarian argument is unassailable all the time it is accepted that abilities can ‘acquire’ an external relation to an individual, and can be treated as if they were property. To treat abilities in this manner is also implicitly to accept that the ‘exchange’ between employer and worker is like any other exchange of material property . . . The answer to the question of how property in the person can be contracted out is that no such procedure is possible. Labour power, capacities or services, cannot be separated from the person of the worker like pieces of property."


Critics of the employment contract advocate consistently applying "the principle behind every trial," i.e., "legal responsibility should be imputed in accordance with de facto responsibility," implying a workplace run jointly by the people who actually work in the firm. The people who actually work in a firm are de facto responsible for the actions of said firm and thus have a legal claim to its outputs, as the contractarian critics argue. "Responsible human action, net value-adding or net value-subtracting, is not de facto transferable." Suppliers (including shareholders), on the other hand, having no de facto responsibility, have no legal claim to the outputs.

While a person may still voluntarily decide to contractually rent himself, just as today he may voluntarily decide to contractually sell himself, in a society where "the principle behind every trial" is consistently applied, neither contract would be legally enforceable, and the rented/sold individual would maintain at all times de jure responsibility for her/his actions, including legal claim to the fruits of their labor. In a modern liberal-capitalist society, the employment contract is enforced while the enslavement contract is not; the former being considered valid because of its consensual/non-coercive nature, and the later being considered inherently invalid, consensual or not. The noted economist Paul Samuelson
Paul Samuelson
Paul Anthony Samuelson was an American economist, and the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. The Swedish Royal Academies stated, when awarding the prize, that he "has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in...

 described this discrepancy.
"Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be
capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself; he must rent himself at a wage."


Some advocates of laissez-faire capitalism, among them philosopher Robert Nozick
Robert Nozick
Robert Nozick was an American political philosopher, most prominent in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a professor at Harvard University. He is best known for his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia , a right-libertarian answer to John Rawls's A Theory of Justice...

, address this inconsistency in modern societies, arguing that a consistently libertarian society would allow and regard as valid consensual/non-coercive enslavement contracts, rejecting the notion of inalienable rights.
"The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would."


Others like Murray Rothbard
Murray Rothbard
Murray Newton Rothbard was an American author and economist of the Austrian School who helped define capitalist libertarianism and popularized a form of free-market anarchism he termed "anarcho-capitalism." Rothbard wrote over twenty books and is considered a centrally important figure in the...

 allow for the possibility of debt slavery, asserting that a lifetime labour contract can be broken so long as the slave pays appropriate damages:
"[I]f A has agreed to work for life for B in exchange for 10,000 grams of gold, he will have to return the proportionate amount of property if he terminates the arrangement and ceases to work."

Gender

While no definite study exists comparing male vs. female wage slavery, worldwide

Criticism

According to Eric Foner, most abolitionists in the U.S. regarded the analogy of wage earners to slaves, symbolized by the term "wage slavery," as spurious. Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison
William Lloyd Garrison was a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, and social reformer. He is best known as the editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, and as one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, he promoted "immediate emancipation" of slaves in the United...

 stated that the use of the term "wage slavery" (in a time when chattel slavery was still common) was an "abuse of language." Most abolitionists believed that wage workers were "neither wronged nor oppressed". Former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing...

 described his elation when he took a paying job, declaring that "Now I am my own master." According to Douglass, wage labor did not represent oppression but fair exchange and former slaves for the first time receiving the fruits of their labor.

The philosopher Gary Young has argued that the same basic reasoning that considers the individual to be forced to sell his labor to a capitalist in order to survive, also applies to the capitalist in that he is forced to hire a worker to survive otherwise his capital will be exhausted through consumption, leaving him nothing to purchase the necessities of life. In this sense, the capitalists depend on the workers as the workers depend on the capitalists.

In mainstream economic
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 philosophy, wage labor is seen as the voluntary sale of one's own time and efforts
Labour economics
Labor economics seeks to understand the functioning and dynamics of the market for labor. Labor markets function through the interaction of workers and employers...

, just like a carpenter would sell a chair, or a farmer would sell wheat. It is considered neither an antagonistic nor abusive relationship, and carries no particular moral implications. From this perspective, the problem of poverty comes from an unequal distribution of income
Income distribution
In economics, income distribution is how a nation’s total economy is distributed amongst its population.Income distribution has always been a central concern of economic theory and economic policy...

 and can be addressed by government programs like social security
Social security
Social security is primarily a social insurance program providing social protection or protection against socially recognized conditions, including poverty, old age, disability, unemployment and others. Social security may refer to:...

 and progressive taxation, and does not reflect a fundamental flaw in the capitalist system.

Wage slavery is also in contradiction to the classical liberal
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 notion of self-ownership
Self-ownership
Self-ownership is the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to be the exclusive controller of his own body and life. According to G...

. Under this view, a person is not free unless he can sell himself, because if a person does not own themselves, they must be owned by either another individual or a group of individuals. The ability for anyone to consent to an activity or action would then be placed in the hands of a third party. Further, the third-party's ownership would also be in the hands of yet another individual or group. This regression of ownership would transfer ad infinitum and leave no one with the ability to coordinate their own actions or those of anyone else. The conclusion is therefore that if under wage slavery, self-ownership is not legitimate, there is no right for anyone then to claim enslavement to wages in the first place.

See also

  • Basic income
    Basic income
    A basic income guarantee is a proposed system of social security, that regularly provides each citizen with a sum of money. In contrast to income redistribution between nations themselves, the phrase basic income defines payments to individuals rather than households, groups, or nations, in order...

  • Capitalist mode of production
    Capitalist mode of production
    In Marx's critique of political economy, the capitalist mode of production is the production system of capitalist societies, which began in Europe in the 16th century, grew rapidly in Western Europe from the end of the 18th century, and later extended to most of the world...

  • Citizen's dividend
    Citizen's dividend
    Citizen's dividend or citizen's income is a proposed state policy based upon the principle that the natural world is the common property of all persons . It is proposed that all citizens receive regular payments from revenue raised by the state through leasing or selling natural resources for...

  • Classless society
    Classless society
    Classless society refers to a society in which no one is born into a social class. Such distinctions of wealth, income, education, culture, or social network might arise and would only be determined by individual experience and achievement in such a society.Since these distinctions are difficult to...

  • Eight-hour day
    Eight-hour day
    The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions...

  • Firestone Liberian controversy
    Firestone Liberian controversy
    Firestone Natural Rubber Company, LLC is a subsidiary of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the company operates the largest contiguous rubber plantation in the world in Liberia, which first opened in 1926....


  • Free association (communism and anarchism)
    Free association (communism and anarchism)
    In the anarchist, Marxist and socialist sense, free association is a kind of relation between individuals where there is no state, social class or authority, in a society that had abolished the private property of means of production...

  • Proletariat
    Proletariat
    The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

  • Refusal of work
    Refusal of work
    Refusal of work is behavior which refuses to adapt to regular employment.As actual behavior, with or without a political or philosophical program, it has been practiced by various subcultures and individuals. Radical political positions have openly advocated refusal of work. From within marxism it...

  • Salaryman
    Salaryman
    refers to someone whose income is salary based; particularly those working for corporations. Its frequent use by Japanese corporations, and its prevalence in Japanese manga and anime has gradually led to its acceptance in English-speaking countries as a noun for a Japanese white-collar...

  • Truck system
    Truck system
    A truck system is an arrangement in which employees are paid in commodities or some currency substitute , rather than with standard money. This limits employees' ability to choose how to spend their earnings—generally to the benefit of the employer...

  • Working poor
    Working poor
    - Definition in the United States :There are several popular definitions of "working poor" in the United States. According to the US Department of Labor, the working poor "are persons who spent at least 27 weeks [in the past year] in the labor force , but whose incomes fell below the official...


External links

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