Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Socialism and "The Worker"

One of my main reasons I am hesitant at times to describe myself as socialist is the continued use of the antiquated term 'worker' to describe the group that is primarily put at risk by capital. While it may be technically accurate to describe anyone who does not in large part own and control the means of production as a 'worker,' it nonetheless has some unflattering connotations that wind up alienating a substantial portion of the United States population.

When the word 'worker' falls upon my ears, it conjures to mind coal miners, steel-mill workers, and manufacturing line operators. I don't think to describe myself as a 'worker,' or any of my friends and colleagues who tirelessly perform the labors of love that are research, engineering, or infrastructure management. We don't sweat, (generally,) we don't come home after every day looking for respite from the day's work, and oftentimes we don't resent our employers who often share our love and enthusiasm for our work. "White-collar" workers are workers too, and I think the use of the terms "labor" and "worker" doesn't encapsulate this.

While I am unsure of what term should be used to replace it, the socialist movement would be best served by replacing it with some other, more neutral term. The goals of socialism don't just serve to benefit the unfortunate or the blue-collar workers, they serve to benefit the populace as a whole. We all fear for our security in the case of illness, disability, and unemployment. We all worry about whether the products we use are safe and fairly-priced. More importantly, we all care in some measure for our fellow human being, while not seeking to be demonized for our own fortune. Instead of trying to divide the argument into 'us' and 'them,' I think that socialist organizations should try to move more towards discussions about 'the people' and 'citizens' instead of about 'the working people,' 'the working class,' 'workers,' and 'laborers.'

1 comment:

  1. If you're gonna be a proponent of socialism then you (the talented one) had better be prepared to produce far more for the system than you consume. Your needs may be simple now, but someday they will not be. Get cracking on those 10 unreleased open source projects that you labor on for your own enjoyment, and maybe actually release something for the rest of us, the less talented consumers.