A Minimum Wage? Ehhh…

In the “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts,” Marx analyzes the deep human problems with capitalism, showing how it alienates people from themselves, from each other, and from their human excellence. The problem, Marx reminds us, is not low wages under capitalism, or a lack of good jobs under capitalism; the problem is the capitalist system of wage labor itself.

An enforced raising of wages (disregarding all other difficulties, including that this anomaly could only be maintained forcibly) would therefore be nothing but a better slave-salary and would not achieve either for the worker or for labor human significance and dignity (p. 67 of the Simon collection)

And the stakes are high, Marx says: wage labor prevents us from becoming fully human. With all the talk of a minimum wage recently, and the sincere sense that a higher minimum wage would be an enormous leap forward, I think this text of Marx is worth keeping in the front of our minds.

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