Having recently heard the term “wage slavery” used by someone on social media—who said it and on what social media is pretty much beside the point—I came to the conclusion I had to write an article on the subject.
The more I considered the concept, the more I realized that it was a sort of “subset” of another topic upon which I had been intending to write. As such, I toyed for a time, with the idea of writing a single article to opine on both subjects. It wasn’t until it became quite clear to me that more needed to be said on both subjects than I could “comfortably fit” into a single post, given my self-imposed limitations.
The result is that I will have to create two texts, one for this subject, and one for the other—the other being a text more generally on discrimination and prejudice to a specific end. I won’t bother to go into more detail here; when I write that piece, the end will become—I hope—more than obvious.
That having been said, let me get on with the article on the concept of “wage slavery.”
Seldom have I heard a more ridiculous term than “wage slavery.” The website Dictionary.com does a reasonable job of defining a slave when it says a slave is, “A person who is the property of, and wholly subject to another.” Anything subsequent to that statement is, in my view, entirely unimportant.
As such, the continuation of the Dictionary.com definition to include the expression, “a bond servant,” does not one thing to clarify or help us to understand the definition of the word “slave.” This is because there are different meanings for the term “bondservant.” If one takes the oldest of these I am aware of, it does not equate to slavery. Regardless whether there is one older or not, the term has come to be duplicitous.
The primary point though, is that the terms “slave” and “slavery” stand entirely on their own merit (or lack thereof). Slavery is a thing from which there is intended to be no escape short of the release of the slave by the one holding him or her in slavery (or by some other doing the same).
As simple as this distinction is, it’s absolutely astounding how many forsake it in their discussion of things they refer to as “slavery.” An excellent example of this is the willingness of folks to use the term, “wage slavery.”
Allow me to clarify. When a person is a slave, whether he or she receives some form of recompense is immaterial. That is, he or she is still a slave.
In case that is not yet clear enough, if one person holding another in slavery has the ability to deny the “slave” wages, without that slave having the ability to walk away from the situation, no longer in bondage to the “master,” the slave is truly a slave.
That would mean the concept of “wages” with regard to slaves is not something upon which their slavery was contingent.
The fact is, slave owners must “pay” slaves. How so? Well, if you want to keep your slave, you must feed him or her (or at least allow him or her time to find, prepare and eat food). Similarly, if you want to continue to use the services of your slave, you have to give them some time to sleep. A slave who does not sleep will likely ultimately go insane and probably die.
So the idea that “remuneration matters to slavery” at all, is rather a ridiculous one. When a person is truly held against his or her will as a slave, it really matters relatively little that the person in question is “paid for being held” in some fashion.
On the other hand, if a person goes to work for another, based on the agreement that the person going to work will be compensated for his or her labor, that is not slavery—unless the one being paid cannot walk away.
Putting this all together then, placing the word “wage” in front of the word “slave” or the word “slavery” doesn’t really matter. Payment is irrelevant to slavery. You can pay a slave or not, they’re still a slave if they cannot walk away of their own free will. Under what pretense they are held is beside the point.
To be fair, I should point out that most people using the terms “wage slave” and “wage slavery,” mean something different by the term. They mean something along the lines of, “I must perform work in order to get paid.” I would have you think about this for a moment, and come to your own conclusion as to whether or not this is an “unfair deal.”
Remember, the first (and really the only) consideration regarding slavery, is whether or not the person who would be paid for working is able to entirely walk away at his or her own choice from the person paying them for that work. That is to say—among other things—it’s not about whether your paying me is contingent on my working for you or vice versa.
About now, you may be asking, “Why do you care so much about this distinction?” The answer may surprise folks who think that Conservatives support ideas like slavery (a thing I find to be entirely untrue of all Conservatives I know).
It is that, in the process of trying to besmirch the concept of people doing things that are intended to be mutually beneficial for one another, those using terms like “wage slavery” whose meaning is as stated above actually blur the distinction between what slavery is and what it is not.
The result is that it’s harder to get folks to accept that slavery still exists, that it is evil and that we must work to cause it to cease to exist.
Yes, true slavery is bad, it is wrong, it should cease immediately. No, “wage slavery” (as it is commonly defined by those who use the term), is not true slavery. In fact, it is those who have, trying to lift those who don’t by giving them a chance to gain some of what they possess for their personal or public use through agreeing on terms that are amicable to both.
You can agree or not, I’d love to hear how you disagree if you do.
As usual, thanks for reading and have a wonderful day.