Specters of Work
A discussion on the theories of labor of the communists Marx and Engels.
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This essay discusses labor theories of as expressed in the communist manifesto. The writer focuses on the theories of Marx and Engles. He bases his conclusion on Juliet Schor’s The Overworked American, the Free Agent Employees by Nina Munk, and The Founder of Modern Business by Bruce Barton.
Many articles deal rather indirectly with the ideas of the communist manifesto, merely accepting its ideas of oppression without quite understanding the causes behind them, or their final ends. One of the interesting articles along these lines is Free Agent Employees by Nina Munk. In her article, she deals with the new phenomena of freelance workers, which are apparently distinguished from temporary workers only in name and mindset. It is difficult to say what Marx himself would have thought about freelance workers. In theory, it might seem that they are liberated from the oppressive system of corporate ownership. On the other hand, as Munk points out, they get all the work and low wages of ordinary workers, with none of the rewards that unions have slowly attached to permanent workers, such as health and retirement benefits. Her discussion of how the system of freelance workers only really benefits the employers and those who, as it were, help pimp freelance labor, is relatively Marxist in nature. And such freelance laborers are the ultimate realization of what Marx and Engles wrote in the communist Manifesto: laborers who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity.