“Workers and owners are fundamentally connected and antagonistic along a number of dimensions:
- It is through the labor of the working class that the goods and services necessary for our survival are produced.
- It is through the ownership of society’s productive wealth (land, machines, factories, etc.) that the owning class is able to compel that this labor be done. Workers must sell their capacity to work in order to gain access to this productive wealth, since no one can live without such access.
- In terms of society’s “reproduction” the relationship between labor and capital is essential. So much of what we do presupposes the successful sale of labor power. Without the money from such a sale, nothing appears to exist.
- The essence of production in capitalism is the ceaseless accumulation of capital, the making of profits and the use of such profits to increase the capital at the owners’ disposal. Competition among capitals both drives accumulation and is driven by it, in a relentless dance.
- But to accumulate capital, employers must make sure that workers cannot claim possession of all they produce. This means that employers must strive for maximum control of the entire apparatus of production and any and all social forces and institutions that might interfere with this control (for example, the state, schools, and media). At all costs, workers must be prevented from getting the idea that they have rights to the output they produce.”
“Workers comprise the subordinate class. They are normally in the position of having to react to decisions made by others. They are dependent upon employers, and they are at the same time apprehensive of them, since employers hold the power to deny to workers the life-sustaining connection to the means of production. Exploitation, dependence, and insecurity—in a system where workers are bombarded with the message that they and they alone make the decisions that determine their circumstances—make for a toxic brew, which when drunk often enough, creates a personality lacking in self-confidence, afraid to take chances, easily manipulated and shamed (of course, on the bright side, these injuries have given rise to a massive “self-help” industry).
The very subordination of workers, combined with the market mechanism that ratifies and reinforces it, means that capitalist societies will display ineradicable inequalities in variables of great importance: wealth, income, schooling, health care, housing, child care, and so forth. What is more, the market will, absent powerful countervailing forces, not only reproduce inequalities but deepen them, as we have seen so clearly in the United States over the past thirty years. This inequality itself generates its own class injuries. In my book, Naming the System, I cite research comparing the impact of inequality across the United States. It was discovered that, all else being equal, the greater the inequality of income within a state (as measured by the share of income going to the poorest 50 percent of households in each state), the higher the mortality rate. It appears that the psychological damage done to poor people as they contemplate the gap between themselves and those at the top of the income distribution has an independent effect on a wide variety of individual and social health outcomes. Everything we know about the correlation between health and other social indicators and income (a decent though not perfect proxy for class) tells us that working people will suffer in every way.”