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Wage labour (also wage labor in "American English) is the "socioeconomic relationship between a "worker and an "employer, where the worker sells his or her labour power under a formal or informal "employment contract. These transactions usually occur in a "labour market where "wages are market determined. In exchange for the wages paid, the work product generally becomes the "undifferentiated property of the employer, except for special cases such as the vesting of "intellectual property patents in the United States where "patent rights are "usually vested in the employee personally responsible for the invention. A wage labourer is a person whose primary means of income is from the selling of his or her labour power in this way.
In modern mixed economies such as those of the "OECD countries, it is currently the most common form of work arrangement. Although most labour is organised as per this structure, the wage work arrangements of "CEOs, professional employees, and professional contract workers are sometimes conflated with "class assignments, so that "wage labour" is considered to apply only to unskilled, semi-skilled or "manual labour.
The most common form of wage labour currently is ordinary direct, or "full-time". This is employment in which a free worker sells his or her labour for an indeterminate time (from a few years to the entire career of the worker), in return for a money-wage or salary and a continuing relationship with the employer which it does not in general offer contractors or other irregular staff. However, wage labour takes many other forms, and explicit as opposed to implicit (i.e. conditioned by local labour and tax law) contracts are not uncommon. Economic history shows a great variety of ways, in which labour is traded and exchanged. The differences show up in the form of:
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Many "Socialists see wage labour as a major, if not defining, aspect of hierarchical industrial systems. Most opponents of the institution support "worker self-management and "economic democracy as alternatives to both wage labour and to capitalism. While most opponents of wage labour blame the capitalist owners of the means of production for its existence, most "anarchists and other "libertarian socialists also hold the state as equally responsible as it exists as a tool utilised by capitalists to subsidise themselves and protect the institution of "private ownership of the means of production—which guarantees the concentration of capital among a wealthy elite leaving the majority of the population without access. As some opponents of wage labour take influence from Marxist propositions, many are opposed to "private property, but maintain respect for "personal property.
Similarly, many scholars within "feminist economics critique the emphasis on "wage labor, saying that most men's work is paid while most women's work is unpaid, as shown by comprehensive surveys. Scholars in this field argue that much of this unpaid women's work supports the production of economic value and the reproduction and production of social existence.
A point of criticism is that after people have been compelled by economic necessity to no feasible alternative than that of wage labour, "exploitation occurs; thus the claim that wage labour is "voluntary" on the part of the labourer is considered a "red herring as the relationship is only entered into due to systemic coercion brought about by the "inequality of bargaining power between labour and capital as classes.
Wage labour has long been compared to slavery by socialists. As a result, the term "'wage slavery' is often utilised as a pejorative for wage labour. Similarly, advocates of slavery looked upon the "comparative evils of Slave Society and of Free Society, of slavery to human Masters and slavery to Capital," and proceeded to argue persuasively that wage slavery was actually worse than "chattel slavery. Slavery apologists like "George Fitzhugh contended that workers only accepted wage labour with the passage of time, as they became "familiarized and inattentive to the infected social atmosphere they continually inhale[d]."
According to "Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the "Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book On the Limits of State Action, classical "liberal thinker "Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how "whatever does not spring from a man's free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness" and so when the labourer works under external control, "we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is." Both the "Milgram and "Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations. Additionally, as per anthropologist "David Graeber, the earliest wage labour contracts we know about were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money, and the slave, another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses.) Such arrangements, according to Graeber, were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. "C. L. R. James argued in "The Black Jacobins that most of the techniques of human organisation employed on factory workers during the industrial revolution were first developed on slave plantations.
For Marxists, labour-as-commodity, which is how they regard wage labour, provides a fundamental point of attack against capitalism. "It can be persuasively argued," noted one concerned philosopher, "that the conception of the worker's labour as a commodity confirms Marx's stigmatisation of the wage system of private capitalism as 'wage-slavery;' that is, as an instrument of the capitalist's for reducing the worker's condition to that of a slave, if not below it." That this objection is fundamental follows immediately from Marx's conclusion that wage labour is the very foundation of capitalism: "Without a class dependent on wages, the moment individuals confront each other as free persons, there can be no production of surplus value; without the production of surplus-value there can be no capitalist production, and hence no capital and no capitalist!"
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