Tuesday, 12 November 2013
I recently enrolled on a course of free cooperative higher education. The Social Science Centre Lincoln is a group of academics and scholars who get together to share their individual knowledge with one another and run courses designed to get higher education into the reach of ordinary folk. I am grateful to be amongst this group and learning new and very exciting things, mainly theories of other renowned authors. The course is called Social Science Imagination and we are presently reading the book called Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills.
After last weeks session where we studied this Imagination through the topic of work and a reading by a Feminist/Marxist Kathi Weeks, we got into a debate about work and its value. Or more importantly the value of waged work. The world system of capitalism seems to have a strong hold over us all and work is very commonly understood to be the focus of our lives. It is the hub around which all of our social, family life and identity revolves. Marx described waged work as the central mechanism of capitalism and its lifeblood. Indeed it can be seen in our modern societies that waged work is the principle feature around which everything else moves. At present without this we are not able to provide the necessities of life for ourselves and our families. There are those of us that have the benefit of a system in place for being unemployed, but it is hardly a great substitute and can be barely survived on. At the same time waged work seems to be losing its value in real terms as prices rise and wages don't. Over several decades many political economists have been studying this trend and the consensus seems to be now, that human labour is the single most critical commodity of value. This is described as the one thing that machines cannot produce, even if they can replicate work that they have been programmed to do, they cannot determine their own.
During our discussions we saw how Weeks' attempted to undo the ethos of her own beliefs, by suggesting that the current model be seriously challenged as a focus for human life. She offers a thought that reduced working hours and the creating of a basic wage for everyone may provide some of the answers to current world issues with regards economic sustainability and work/life balance, even health issues and well-being.
But if we don't have this system, what would we replace it with?
Of course we may need to know what is wrong with the current system first, or what we feel is wrong with it, before offering suggestions about its replacement. Weeks' herself acknowledges the limits of conjecture as did bell hooks, but it is certainly well understood that workers don't hate work, they hate the tyranny of the system. It is oppressive in the main, perhaps more observable in the manufacturing and transport sectors, but in subtle ways in all of them. Hierarchy leaves us in no doubt that there is domination and subjugation and who takes which place. Workers contracts are under scrutiny at the moment again because they are always in favour of the management/owner of their labours. And if you stand up to complain as was done in the days of strong trade unions, you will be put down quickly and told to put up or shut up. If you don't like this, then they'll fire you and replace you with another person keen to take your place. And so, the system wins continually.
During our discussions we talked about alternatives, but as you can imagine, a subject like waged work cannot be easily replaced whilst people are expected to continually observe the other capitalist ideal of consumerism. If no-one has any money nothing can be bought, so manufacture needs its buyers as factories need their workers. Its a vicious circle and not one easily understood, by terms of value. Oddly some physical items are deemed far more valuable than many people, even human life itself. OIL, DIAMONDS, GOLD, MONEY and TECHNOLOGY which often are at the center of problems where human life is decided as less worthy. So if the economists of our world say that human labour is the most valuable of all commodities, why is it not the most respected?
Could we ever consider an alternative to this? Is there anything that could take the place of this valuable resource and bring true freedom to human beings? I believe there is one thing. Something that other desired outcomes forget easily. Sadly it is not at the top of the list when considering change either. But it is at the top of my list and I shall tell you now what it is.
In determining true value I consider:
Of what is truth? Of what is the spirit made?
What is worth living for? And what is worth dying for?
The answer to each is always the same. LOVE, only Love.
Enjoy the Journey...! Peaceful Warrior. 'Peoples Poet'.