Marx spent a great deal of his professional life trying to understand the working person and to better their lives. This often came in the form of attacking capitalism. Now, I think that capitalism and all of it’s dogma is a relatively good idea. Healthy competition never killed anyone (and Rome, that wasn’t healthy). But capitalism turns ugly really quickly. It’s a lot of brute force and menial, tireless, thankless labor all to make a pair of fancy sneakers or some hotsy-snotsy car for the guy that runs the show.
This all ties back to Marx’s idea that many, MANY moons ago, humans did work for the sheer joy of doing work, of creating something. And that something was just as valuable as what the next guy made. Why? Because it was an immediately consumable item. Bread and shoes, they cost the same. Because if one guy made bread and needed shoes and the next guy did just the opposite, it was an even trade. Not so much anymore.
So here’s what’s gotten me thinking today:
Labor is no longer an expression of purpose.
The vast majority of us go to work every single day and I’d wager to say that most of us just don’t care. We work because someone told us to and that same someone gives us money for doing whatever they tell us to do. For most of us, our work no longer defines us. We’re not doing something we love because, for most of us, whatever we love doing wouldn’t pay the bills or feed the family. I mean, think of the guy on the assembly line at GM. He screws in a couple bolts for the car coming down the line, rinses, and repeats. Are we really naive enough to think that’s his PASSION? Likely not.
There’s really no easy fix for this problem. It’s deeply embedded in worker alienation (being completely separated from the value of what you’re producing) and exploitation. And because so much of the capitalist community is built on the backs of the exploited, even the revolt that Marx so recommended and warned of would probably have a disastrous outcome.