Foster & Magdoff: The Plight of US Workers

By Fred Magdoff & John Bellamy Foster
Modern capitalism, sociologist Max Weber famously observed early in the twentieth century, is based on “the rational capitalistic organization of (formally) free labor.” But the “rationality” of the system in this sphere, as Weber also acknowledged, was so restrictive as to be in reality “irrational.” Despite its formal freedom, labor under capitalism was substantively unfree.This was in accordance with the argument advanced in Karl Marx’s Capital. Since the vast majority of individuals in the capitalist system are divorced from the means of production they have no other way to survive but to sell their labor power to those who own these means, that is, the members of the capitalist class. The owner-capitalists are the legal recipients of all the value-added that is socially produced by the labor in their employ. Out of this the owners pay the wages of the workers, while retaining for themselves the residual or surplus value generated by the social process of production. This surplus then becomes the basis for the further accumulation of capital, leading to the augmentation of the means of production owned by the capitalist class. The result is a strong tendency to the polarization of income and wealth in society. The more the social productivity of labor grows the more it serves to promote the wealth and power of private capital, while at the same time increasing the relative poverty and economic dependency of the workers.
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For more extensive analyses on the plight of the US working class, see here

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