AN EMPIRE OF ONE

If you don't think everything's really weird, you're not paying attention.

The Wage Slave’s Glossary

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This is the cover of a new book coming out in which one of the authors says:

This little philosophical book, which is also wittily illustrated by Seth, again tackles such phenomena as work, labor, leisure, freedom, and the good life. Instead of singing the praises of idling, this time around we criticize and analyze what the Lowell Mill Girls were the first to name wage slavery, not to mention what Mark calls the work idea itself. Putting down our Gimlets, we train a gimlet eye upon the ideology of working (as reflected in, e.g., management trends, white-collar culture, the history of industrial capitalism, and popular music) which helps make our screwed-up social order appear natural, inevitable, and eternal.

Not sure if this is a book that will leave you laughing or a book with a sober face, or a little of both, but there it is. Learn more about it here.

However, I’m using this book primarily as an excuse to post one of my favorite clips, from the first Marx Brothers film The Cocoanuts:

I haven’t read the book, but nevertheless, the meaning of the term “wage slavery”  is not lost on me. Why do we become wage-slaves? Back in Roman Empire times 90% of the population were engaged in providing the necessities of life while 10% were free to do what they wanted. Today, a mere 5% of the population does the work of those 90% back in Roman times, yet, we probably work as much as that 90%. Why? First of all, our system requires us to work to get the money we need to buy the necessities of life. Yet, how many of us stop working after we have provided for our necessities? Indeed, what would happen to our economic system if we stopped buying things that we don’t need? What if we recycled and repaired things instead of throwing them out and replacing them with something new? What if we ran our cars into the ground before buying the latest and greatest model?

Answer? The system would collapse. Our system depends on redundancies and waste. Do any of us purposely create more work for ourselves in our households? Not unless we are seriously insane. Yet, that is precisely what our economy depends on. We are put in the position of opposing the machine that does our job because, thanks to our system, the machine that replaces us means joblessness and poverty instead of more free time to do what we please.

How did we get stuck with such an absurd state of affairs?

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Written by David Kilmer

August 17, 2011 at 10:39 am

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