From the Roman Empire to the present day, the working class continues to be exploited by the rich and powerful. Though this has always been the case in a capitalist society, the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century has sparked a shift regarding emphases of skill in the common laborer. In addition to the technological renaissance that continues to unfold, the importance of laborers seems to grow more dim as the years fly by. But in order to predict the future purposes of this immense group of workers, we must first examine the history of the working class.
Karl Marx used the term “proletariat” when referring to the working class. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx described them as “a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital.” Consequently, this can expose many of them to the exploitations of the ever unpredictable market. Though in the past, skill and education was a huge factor among labourers, as mass production had not yet been adopted.
Before workers slaved over routine craft in factories, they had more opportunities to master skills and become self employed. In the time before the Industrial Revolution, there were three distinct classes of workers: apprentices, journeymen and masters. Apprentices would be taught a trade, journeymen would work for someone while perfecting the trade and masters had been seen as perfecting their trade. The benefits arising from the lack of mass production included, being your own boss, working on your own time, and best of all, individuality. With the absence of large scale markets, manufacturing processes and machinery, this type of self sustaining trade went on for quite some time. Unfortunately for these working class people, the Industrial Revolution began to transpire.
With the implementation of factories, mass production became the work ethic adopted by the working class, many of whom transitioned reluctantly. With factories being able to produce goods at a much faster rate than self employed labourers, the money in running your own business started to die out. Farmers were forced to abandon their farms to search for work in factories. Working in factories as opposed to working at home has many consequences.
You lose your individuality. Imagine, you are surrounded by dozens of other labourers, working on a production line in synchronization for hours on end, without any variety. This may cause a sane person to lose their creativity and motivation. Once the worker starts to realize that they have now become expendable, it can take a toll on their person. These are all negative effects of the evolution of capitalism.
Capitalism is defined as an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. In plain english, the factories in which mass production takes place are owned by a small group of people, termed bourgeoisie, rather than communally owned by the employees that administer the actual production. This of course can be problematic. Considering mass production has severely impacted the market of individual workers causing them to turn to factories, The bourgeoisie can exploit labor to line their pockets. In essence making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Examples of this exploitation include child labor, poor working conditions and risk of injury. We have often heard the phrase “sweat shop” and unfortunately, they are still lurking in the dark shadows of the world. A 2014 BBC News investigation uncovered horrible working conditions at factories in China, run by Apple. Undercover video showed employees sleeping on the job, improperly trained and working excessive overtime. Human beings, our brothers and sisters have been turned into robots that are at the disposal of that small group of people that seeks to abuse them for their labor. How could those with all the money in the world ever empathize with those who would give up the entirety of their net worths for a full night of rest. Although, the way technology is advancing, these workers may get their full night’s rest, for the rest of their lives. A new light may be creeping along the horizon, the red shinning light of communist ideology.
According to a 2016 CNBC article, innovator Elon Musk predicts that robots will replace the working class and universal basic income will be implemented in the future. In an interview with WIRED, President Barack Obama has also discussed the idea of basic universal wage. “that’s a debate that we’ll be having over the next 10 or 20 years,” he elaborates. It is definitely a topic that needs further analysis. If universal basic income is implemented, this will be an adoption of Communist ideals, something Karl Marx theorized might happen once capitalism finishes it’s run in our society.
Capitalism would no longer exploit workers, as robots will have taken the jobs occupied by the working class. Elon Musk states that these workers who are out of work would be properly compensated by universal basic income. This statement would follow the component of communism concerning the distribution of wealth. Although it does not adopt the component where the bourgeoisie in the capitalistic society would be no more, as it is assumed that the government would compensate the working class.
This might not be the end of capitalism, or the beginning of communism, but it will be a new era in the ever changing world of politics and economics. The evolution of capitalism may be coming full circle as the working class will no longer be exploited once robots take over the jobs. Unfortunately, those remaining in high power will also remain in high wealth. But this is only the start of the eminent insurgence that will be orchestrated by the future unemployed middle class workforce once class consciousness becomes more widespread. As they are out of work, they will be without a purpose. Hopefully they will take this time to dwell on a new state of mind in order. Hopefully they will work to end this non stop oppression and come to a conclusion on how to stage a changing of the guards. Because the evolution of capitalism also means the evolution of the working class, and hopefully the end of their struggle will spark the beginning of their revolution.