In such an economy, associated labor might hire capital instead of the other way around, and the natural state of the free market be cooperative production under the control of the producers.
What is “ Contract Feudalism” ?
Elizabeth Anderson recently coined the term “contract feudalism” to describe the increasing power of employers over employees’ lives outside the workplace.
According to Anderson, one of the benefits that the worker traditionally received in return for his submission to the bosses’ authority on the job was sovereignty over the rest of his life in the “ real world” outside of work. Under the terms of this Taylorist bargain, the worker surrendered his sense of craftsmanship and control over his own work in return for the right to express his “ real” personality through consumption in the part of his life that still belonged to him. This bargain assumed,
the separation of work from the home. However arbitrary and abusive the boss may have been on the factory floor, when work was over the workers could at least escape his tyranny… [T]he separation of work from home made a big difference to workers’ liberty from their employers’ wills.
Wage labor, traditionally, has involved a devil’s bargain in which you “ sell your life in order to live” : you cut off the eight or twelve hours you spend at work and flush them down the toilet, in order to get the money you need to support your real life in the real world, where you’re treated like an adult human being. And out in the real world, where your judgment and values actually matter, you try to pretend that that other hellhole doesn’t exist.
At the same time, Anderson points out, this separation of work from home depends entirely on the relative bargaining power of labor for its enforcement. (I’ll return to this, the central issue, later on.) …