In their article on labor relations Ellen Dannin and Ann C Hodges remind us that when companies compete on price the most prevalent approach is to cut wages and benefits—globalizing labor is the latest means to this end. Labor (aka employees, people) is viewed as a cost against the business of business that is profit. Correlatively to ensure that employees remain powerless individuals and not become a powerful collective voice they inhibit (and even obstruct) the formation of unions. Why? In our economic system of thought, the fact that capital employs labor translates into capital exploits people. Why? It serves self-interest. The past 30-plus years’ downward trend in middle class income along side the increasing income among the capitalist class brings striking evidence of this fact.
We often think (or assume) that countries with a capitalist economic system (that is, countries aligned with the U.S. in conforming to capitalist economic thought) as constituting the industrialized world, as being developed countries. But the question remains developed in regards to what? Developed relative to the means of economic growth? Developed as human societies? With the exploitation of people and Nature being the ‘go-to’ way to economic growth how can these countries be considered developed human societies? Economic development does not imply human development.
In the U.S., though slavery was formally abolished with the 13th amendment to the Constitution, the inhumane treatment of people continues within the (undemocratic private) corporation. In fact, if not for the emergence of the collective power of workers through unionization and the establishment of the National Labor Relations Act, management practices detrimental to people would have continued unabated—there would be no need to globalize labor. No wonder unionization is anathema to capitalist and thus the efforts to weaken the NLRA (if not abolish it)!
This is despite the fact that the evidence is that people-centered management out performs this self-interested profit-centered way of relating to employees. Seemingly, it really doesn’t matter to people intent on maximizing their material self-interest in the short-term—everyone and everything is just a resource (a tool) to be used however they see fit in service to this end. So we find fear-based methods being used quite prevalently throughout the corporate world toward getting people to do as desired.
But when people, as labor, are treated as means in service to one’s self-interest then the only value people have is instrumental value. That is to say, people have no inherent value thus there is no concern for them as human beings—peoples’ inhumanity to people in pursuit of material gain is our real crisis.
Yet we speak of those leading our corporations as leaders. Clearly we have a misguided understanding of what constitutes leadership. Exercising power over others requires no care and concern, just the use of force and fear. To quote Albert Camus, “nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.”
Apparently, what many don’t seem to understand is that compliance is not the same as co-operation; otherwise management practices wouldn’t be what they are. Getting people to comply through carrot-and-stick methods—employing negative energy —will not lead to collaboration and creativity, the very behaviors that are essential for sustaining a viable enterprise.
The continued existence of the enterprise rests squarely on the development of people that in turn requires an atmosphere of trust. As noted in a previous post “trust is reflected in the degree of collaboration, communication, respect, fairness, impartiality, justice, caring and integrity within the workplace.” There can be no trust where fear presides.
The greatest difficulties we face are all man-made and reflective of our ignorance of our selves as human beings. Our pursuit of growth has been a misguided pursuit. We have been so consumed with getting and spending that we’ve not invested our time in being and becoming. Again from Albert Camus, “man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.” Hence though we realize economic growth we have done so to the detriment of our development (individual and collective).
Again from Albert Camus, “freedom is nothing but a chance to be better”, so all we need is the freedom at work to become what we potentially are. Now that would be progress!