Employee slavery

The phrase " paid slavery " comes from the phrase wage slavery.

It is a concept that seeks to define the situation of employees who have legally (de jure) accepted a job and thus submitted to the authority of the employer, but who in practice (de facto) would be slaves..

Salaried slavery assumes that the choice between working for a boss and starving is not a free choice. It is rather a matter of alienation, purely established by man ("of man over man") and founded at its base on a relation of enslavement. In other words, he praises his work force, on a daily basis, to survive.

As a concept, in a capitalist society

Salaried slavery as a concept is a critique of capitalism, when a minority of people controls all means of production (capital).

This criticism often comes from the socialist critique of capitalism, but it is also sometimes expressed by a branch of liberalism represented by Thomas Jefferson, Henry George, Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine, as well as the school of thought of Distributism within of the Roman Catholic Church. These critics have in common the idea that the man should have the freedom to work without being under the orders of a third person.

The use of the term "wage slavery" is also a rhetorical way to draw parallels between work in the present era and historical slavery, especially when it was characterized by slave ownership and human rights. buy them or sell them. The concept of wage slavery is based on the fact that some wage-earning workers have living conditions that are not far removed from these slaves.

As a class condition

A key difference between wage slavery and slavery has been identified by Karl Marx: workers may sometimes refuse to work for a specific employer without being (legally) subject to corporal punishment. For Marx, wage slavery is a class condition before being an individual situation.

For Marx, this class situation is based on:

  • a concentration of property in the hands of a few;
  • the absence of direct access for workers to the means of production and consumer goods ;
  • the existence of mass unemployment.

Marx, however, recognized that some paid slaves could sometimes escape their situation. But historically, even if some slaves (in the historical sense) could also gain their freedom (it was sometimes possible, among the Romans, for example), this does not justify slavery.

The problem takes a different look in case of economic crisis: even when his "master" has no work to give him, a slave must indeed continue to be housed and fed (unless sold). This is no longer necessary with an employee, who can simply be fired.

In practice

Salaried slavery is nowadays a reality in some countries, enslaved wage-earners are deprived of their identity documents and passports, of their rights, thus prevented from returning to their countries and being in fact reduced to the will of the employer.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are about one million of these modern slaves in Latin America. In London, and even now in Paris, it is common to see so-called "poor" workers sleeping in their cars instead of paying exorbitant rent, or even " striking out ", c that is to say, to search the garbage cans (decararism) in search of some reusable residue or food…

Moreover, these situations, comparable to wage slavery, do not spare any totalitarian states apparently located outside the developed capitalist world (North Korea, certain African countries, etc.). The only changing data is the nature of the employer: the state and its ramifications, instead of private corporations. But the concept of salaried slavery is still applicable to all these situations, as long as the vital destiny of some is not fully restored to them (that is to say, as long as everyone is not in a position of real choice therefore free), but remains suspended from the good wishes of other individuals.

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