It’s been a while since I stretched my mind around capitalism. New evidence and experience have given me good cause to provide a critique.
I have been unemployed for fourth quarter 2018, from October to present. It hasn’t been easy. I have completed applications and participated in phone interviews and have made myself available. I have attended in-person interviews and provided answers and depictions of who I am and how I am the best choice. I’ve navigated the unemployment insurance process and was awarded some insurance. It wasn’t for long. I have learned a lot about work and a man’s relationship to his employer. Firstly, I have to forget the entirety of the Marxist critique of capitalism and the workplace if I want to have a career. I hate to admit that as I have viewed this with positive regard. Truly it is a dead end. It only alienated me from the social satisfaction that comes with working with people. Including the human need for a sense of belonging.
In fact, that sense of belonging is the answer to the negative realities of capitalism. I draw this conclusion based on this empirical evidence. I was first introduced to these workplace evolutions through mass media. Television series like “Silicon Valley” depicts a work environment that is like an amusement park, free food everywhere, no real “office” just a coffee shop atmosphere that you clock in at. On the surface, I can assume this work of fiction as having some kernels of truth regarding its namesake, silicon valley. More broadly these trends are studied not by people simply watching television (like my self). Academics and social scientists are tracking social changes all the time. A quick google search gave me access to plenty of sources writing on this subject.
The academics all agree the 9-5 workday is obsolete. Resoundingly they claim the 8 hour day is obsolete too. Research suggests that more flexibility in the work day actually leads to more productivity. Employers are facing more pressure to provide people with less strict expectations. How did this happen? There are many answers, I, however, want to draw a correlation to these changes in the workplace as they relate to the human need to feel belonging. No doubt, this is a minor uninfluential variable to the growth of these changes. This correlation might also be more of an effect of these changes. However, our human need to belong to a group is a motivating force.
I have felt like an outsider in my workplace for a myriad of reasons. I have felt it because of what I believed was my duty to a strict adherence of a Marxist point of view. Those working relationships did not last long at all. That was a lesson learned. In my defense that was a decade or so ago. I have felt workplace alienation because of a personal social trauma history as well. Nevertheless, the feeling that you don’t belong can make working in a building with people very difficult. Therefore, I would say that the changes in the workplace, marked by academics and others, has the effect of giving people a sense of belonging.
From strict and fixed to Laissez-faire and flexible, with an increase in worker motivation, productivity, and morale. If we look at this through the lens of Marx, do we see a proletariat rising up and wielding power enough to own the means of production themselves? Furthermore, through that lens, do we see these changes as another “reform” designed to further exploit the worker, to satiate the working class away from the inevitable revolution? It may be both after all the benefits are mutual to both the employing class and the working class. However, these benefits might be lost on the real working poor, the increase in productivity and morale may not affect business that the truly working poor work for, and the type of work may not be as affected by these positive changes for the worker. If that is the case then we can say that these reforms only reach the petty bourgeoisie – who are characteristically always grabbing for the heels of the high bourgeoisie, keeping up with the Joneses.
How does this affect me and my relationship to work? I deeply need to belong. I used to hide this fact, under a duty to Marxism. my attitude neglected the real social connections and social motivations that can cause working not to be the dreaded toil described by Marx, but an enjoyment. I used to view myself pinned against my employer, who took my time and barely paid me. It was true, I have worked hard in my life and have not been compensated. But this isn’t entirely an effect of capitalism or due to robber barrens and corporate executives. Alright, they do play a big role in this, but I also have to examine my own presuppositions and behaviors. That’s really all I can change and changing myself has a far greater effect on my life than protesting in the streets of Chicago for a socialist revolution (which I have done). Don’t get it twisted I believe that working people deserve better, I deserve better, my family deserves better, being who I was only got me fired, or alienated to the point of quitting, that doesn’t serve my family at all.
The common thread through all people regardless of economic class is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In fact once you have been found out to be contrary, or outside of the “team” in the workplace, people instinctively attempt to take away from you the very needs that you have. Because of my experience in not belonging I attribute the changes in the workplace (which are for the best) to be a product of the mutual efforts of those who have found belonging. Not the outcome of conflicts between enemy workers and enemy bosses. But rather the love and acknowledged mutualism between them. No doubt the nature of the work is a more, if not the most impactful variable toward taking on these new workplace changes or not. Yet, in the places that these changes are playing out – primarily office settings of some kind – these changes are not happening because the employer fears a violent revolution. No – more likely because the employer wants happy employees who are productive. No doubt, workers want to be happy and have more freedom in their work.
How then can I be employed in an industry that is slowly evolving toward the ultimate goal of humanity – individual sovereignty and mutual aid? Once I find out, you’ll be the first to know.