Is there a working class in the US?

There is certainly a working class in the United States, and it is a majority of the population (persons who earn their livelihood through wage-paying employment). But it is highly fragmented, mostly in the service sector, unorganized, and often disinclined to believe in the possibility of serious social change. A recent Brookings research report by …

English socialism

What were the social conditions that led many English intellectuals in the 1930s to engage in fundamental critique of the society in which they lived? Why was social criticism so profound and sustained in Britain from the time of Carlyle and Engels to the surge of English socialism in the 1930s? The answer, of course, …

Alternative social systems and individual wellbeing

Communism ... or Capitalism? A joke from Poland in the 1970s: "In capitalism it is a question of man's exploitation by man. In communism it is the reverse." A modern social system is an environment where millions of people find opportunities, develop their talents, express their beliefs, and earn their livings within the context of …

Did Marx invent “class conflict”?

Marx offered several theories of the modern world that he observed around him in mid-nineteenth-century Britain that have influenced much of turmoil that ensued in the following century and a half -- theories about the "capitalist mode of production," about the role that class conflict plays in historical change, about the determinants of the actions …

Responsible innovation and the philosophy of technology

Several posts here have focused on the philosophy of technology (link, link, link, link). A simple definition of the philosophy of technology might go along these lines: Technology may be defined broadly as the sum of a set of tools, machines, and practical skills available at a given time in a given culture through which human needs and …

Worker-owned enterprises as a social solution

Consider some of the most intractable problems we face in contemporary society: rising inequalities between rich and poor, rapid degradation of the environment, loss of control of their lives by the majority of citizens. It might be observed that these problems are the result of a classic conundrum that Marx identified 150 years ago: the …

Jobs, basic income, and the future of the techno-market economy

In the dystopian vision of the future described in William Gibson's Sprawl novels, there are few people with normal jobs, regular sources of income, retirement plans, and health insurance. Instead, there are hackers, freelance security guards, software traffickers, criminals at many levels, and a few distant corporations with scientists and managers. It is a grim …

Is there a new capitalism?

An earlier post considered Dave Elder-Vass’s very interesting treatment of the contemporary digital economy. In Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy Elder-Vass argues that the vast economic significance of companies like Google, FaceBook, and Amazon in today's economy is difficult to assimilate within the conceptual framework of Marx’s foundational ideas about capitalism, constructed as they were around manufacturing, …

How is “work” socially constituted?

How does "work" take shape in an advanced manufacturing and service economy? Is the division of labor a natural outcome of technology, or is it the result of a concrete set of social processes involving the strategies and interests of several groups? What kinds of social processes determine the bundle of skills, knowledge, and training …

How to think about work

Work defines a large portion of life in any society, traditional or modern.  How should we think about the social and economic forces that create "work"? What are the institutions and practices through which individuals use their bodies, brains, skills, and talents to create value within a given set of economic relationships? These questions are just …

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