Work is transforming under the pressure of automation, generational shifts and the lasting marks of the COVID-19 pandemic. To inform conversations about what work is and what it should be, academic Amelia Horgan offers an impassioned and well-researched account of the exploitative nature of large-scale capitalism. Horgan focuses on the poor conditions low-wage workers in the United Kingdom and United States face as a result of under-regulated capitalist forces. Her proposed solution may not be new, but it is enjoying a revival: unionization and collective bargaining.
Since the Industrial Age, capitalism has subjugated and exploited workers.
Industrialization, the advent of globalized capitalism and the erosion of collective bargaining forced many workers into servitude and drudgery. In the early 20th century, the industrialist Henry Ford and the industrial efficiency innovator Frederick Taylor, for example, sought to eliminate all unnecessary movement from their assembly lines. They aimed to control every aspect of workers’ productivity, including how much time they took for bathroom breaks. Today’s information-era work was supposed to relieve the monotony of factories, but some employers made these promises only to dispel the need for unions and public services – under the cloak of neoliberalism. In some instances, technology has only made intrusions into workers’ personal lives more sophisticated.
Capitalist owners possess virtually all power in the workplace, and some wield it coercively. Except for the wealthy, everyone must work, many under dehumanizing and often dangerous conditions that prevail in an increasing percentage of employment today...
Amelia Horgan is an academic researcher and lecturer at the University of Essex. She writes on work-related topics for a range of media, including The Guardian, VICE and Tribune.