Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

What sort of wage-labor employment would be tolerable to anarchists?

+3 votes
In order to survive within the current US capitalist system there are those of us who have accepted jobs to help provide an income to afford the basics of life. While the system is one which I reject, it is painfully obvious to me that there's differences which exist between types of employment available. There's a different mindset which accompanies the requirements of a job as an officer or a prison guard, or a banker or debt collector, and so on, which protects the status quo capitalist system in obvious ways. As a person without a college degree, I am curious as to what types of jobs might be less protecting of that status quo. If I need to work in order to survive then I want that job to be as less helpful to the system as possible. Would restaurant work, healthcare services, or possibly even manufacturing, be possible sources of this sort of work or am I off-track completely?
asked Nov 16, 2010 by anonymous

7 Answers

+5 votes
None are tolerable. Wage-labor is a form of slavery. However, since we are forced to survive within this system until it is destroyed, some are obviously less intolerable than others. My criteria are jobs which are less tiring, less health-impairing, easier to slack off on, and offer me some sorts of advantages (IE: cool co-workers, free food, etc.) Your framing of the issue makes my take seem quite self-centered.

It's hard for me to fathom the variance of degrees to which certain positions reinforce capital and the state more than others. They're all pretty complicit. Even illegal activities like drug trafficking are arguably reinforcing capital and the state, vis-a-vis police. Perhaps smaller institutions like small businesses are less reinforcing? Positions like park rangers, though state work, seem less oppressive, unless you're using your authority to harass people. I think food production is a really basic thing, and you could help supply local communities of resistance. Doesn't pay well, though. Also, all jobs lend themselves in some ways to sabotage.

IMO there is a lot of oppression in standard healthcare. Toxic pharmaceuticals are pushed on people, insurance companies - well, you know, birthing women are treated like they're sick, psychiatry forces understandably mentally unstable people to put up w/ this fucked up society, etc.

Perhaps you could form some sort of not-profit cooperative venture like various anarchist cafes, media collectives and food coops.
answered Nov 16, 2010 by enkidu (6,700 points)
+3 votes
i think a lot of what enkidu said stands for me also. i would emphasize what enk alludes to, which is that whatever you do that can be used for people you care about is perhaps the best option. if you go into health care, then see what can be used for your social circles. if you work with food, then see how you can exploit that. not just on the level of the super practical, but also on how to apply the skills you learn to the life you want to live.
in other words, figure out how to make the job work for you, rather than the other way around.

on some level, surviving at all is a plus for capitalism (as is dying, of course), so it is impossible to gauge our behavior wholly on that criteria.
answered Nov 22, 2010 by dot (50,920 points)
–2 votes
To me, whatever job you have, there are conversations to be had with your conscience about it. Personally, I tend not to worry too much about whether what I am doing is reinforcing the state, since I am already doing my share there by collecting wages in fiat currency. I tend to focus instead on whether I can stand the work, and how much I am directly responsible for suffering or destruction in my work.

A different way to look at this is to think in terms of finding work that allows you to develop skills essential to the function of any society, or even just providing yourself with the essentials of life (growing food, fixing things, building houses, emergency care, etc). These are, after all, are among the sorts of skills needed to develop viable alternatives to the system.
answered Dec 17, 2010 by Tower of Babel (580 points)
0 votes
If at all possible, I like my work to teach me things that are useful in my life in general. I like farming and gardening work. I also try to acquire as broad a range of skills as I can so I can pick up odd jobs which gives me more control over my time than other work. You can often pick up skills that will eventually provide income through volunteering somewhere where the skills are taught: ie learning construction from habitat for humanity or gardening from community garden projects. If you are thorough and considerate in your work people will refer you. Then you have more control over your time and can work on organizing and anarchy! Get tools at yard sales, estate auctions, flea markets, and thrift stores at first and upgrade as you can. Obviously this assumes you have time, energy and physical ability for the volunteering to start with. Also, certain trades are super useful for @'s. There's seems to be a lot of anarchist nurses out there and its only 2 years of school at community college tuitions for the degree. You can work part time and still make a significant income compared with what you might be making now and give people some dignity and support when they're in a rough spot in the process. Follow your passions.
answered Aug 3, 2011 by Fisher (150 points)
0 votes
(Wow dont know where my head was for my previous answer)

Under the current system wage-labor is the condition for survival unless we chose to go off grid.

I think living by our values and conscience are important.  That we do as little to empower that system is also important that we find ourselves as little of being a part to the problem as possible.

Wellness would be better than healthcare.  I was trying to provide a free wellness program for businesses but I am horrible when it comes to business and money.   You could find some sort of service or repair oriented carreer where your focus is on helping people with their needs.  You could work at a grocery store that allows people to have easy access to a supply of food.

I also feel that in our minds it is important to more and more detact our thoughts from the very concepts of money.  Look at things in such a way to see that there is a system around us not based on money that actually is what sustains the needs and comforts of life a away that sees past as the heirachy and cooprerate mess.
answered May 22, 2012 by afunctionalworld (2,090 points)
edited May 26, 2012 by afunctionalworld
–1 vote
Wage - labor employment could be possible if the company had no owners or hierarchy and that the profits took care of the food and housing of all its members, and provided each with a means to buy anything they needed or wanted those personally determined.  

This would likely fail in one of two ways.  Either some aspect of authoritative restraint was created or that employees functioned under the same values held in capitalism.
answered Jun 15, 2012 by afunctionalworld (2,090 points)
I think even the situation you describe falls out of the spectrum of "wage labor", since in your example, the organization and the resources of said organization would be handled by the entirety of the organization - rather than a certain in-group (or individual boss) handling the resources and management, and only doling out certain resources and privileges to others.
–1 vote
Look, I dig the IWW definition: you don't have the power to hire or fire anyone, and you're not a cop. Class has nothing to do with how much cash you make or your usefulness to the system. It is simply an objective relationship defined by these criteria. Go for whatever it is that you're passionate about; just don't be a boss, don't be a cop, and don't be a fucking rat!
This is how you keep your ethics in an unethical economic
system.
answered Jun 28, 2012 by Sasha (100 points)
i disagree with sasha's answer, which disagrees with itself (if i may be allowed to read carefully ;) ). first it says not to be a cop or a boss, and then it adds being a rat...
to reiterate my position (because i think it is worth repeating), i don't think that there is a way to be ethical (in the way that this answer implies) and get money for it. scientists, teachers, social workers, jail guards, bureaucrats/paper pushers, all of these roles are less obvious (depending on one's perspective) guardians of the social order, but they are all crucial bits.
all paying positions participate in the system, that is why they are recognized/validated by wages.
but doesn't that just raise the question "is there any way at all to live ethically within this particular society"? It seems to me that, sooner or later, one ends up with some product that was made unethically, or that someone has to obey an unethical law, etc, etc. So are we either on one side of this fence or the other, and that's that?

It seems to me that while I live in this society, the best I can do is work for change as much as I can. Meanwhile, I do have a straight job to pay the bills so that my kids can have food clothes and shelter. I do live outside the system as much as I possibly can within the *current* limitations me and my family are dealing with AND am constantly trying to learn and do more.

So, unless I drop out and completely detach myself from this unethical society, I am of no use to any movement? I am just part of the system and serve no purpose other than to further the system? I beg to differ, but it looks like I'm in the minority.
"all paying positions participate in the system, that is why they are recognized/validated by wages."

there are also non-paying positions, not validated by wages, that participate in/perpetuate the system. the glaring example being most stay-at-home/housekeeping moms/dads.  

not disagreeing, just adding a point.
FA, that is so absolutely true... thanks for adding it!
...