Capitalism and work time
DOI link for Capitalism and work time
Capitalism and work time book
This chapter takes up the evidence from Chapters 5-10 and revisits some of the theoretical assumptions laid out in Chapters 1-3 in order to present a number of conclusions with regard to the nature and role of work time in capitalist societies. The chapter starts with a discussion of the persistence of long work hours despite very substantial gains in productivity and living standards. Among other questions it asks why existing institutions have often proved insufﬁcient in defending working people from long and ﬂexible work hours, and especially from the growing polarization of work time. One insight, discussed in the following section, is that solidarity is an essential precondition for a shorter work day and week, and for a more equal distribution of paid and unpaid work, whereas markets promote the interests of employers and capital owners. The next section describes how the search for surplus labor has transformed production systems and resulted in a simultaneous compression, extension, and variation of work time. Here, too, markets played a pivotal role in enforcing the changes. The following part discusses the tension between standardization and ﬂexibilization and argues that in neoliberal capitalism ﬂexibilization is a form of commodiﬁcation and as such an erosion of working class achievements. In contrast the promotion of worker-based ﬂexibility demands for a severe limitation of competition and more workplace democracy. The next part links consumption to ecological degradation and explores the role of shorter work hours in a more sustainable economy and society. The chapter ends with a discussion of the concept of necessary work time as an alternative to growing and increasingly intense and polarized work hours, and a list of arguments in favor of a 30-hour week.