The dialectic of work

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By JOELMA LV PIRES*

Daily resistance against any capitalist domination constitutes the real movement that overcomes the current state of affairs

In a context of flexible capitalism based on the intensification of the domination and exploitation of the working class through the constitution of a reality of uncertainty and precariousness, with the predominance of the deconstruction of social rights, it is essential to assimilate the dialectic of work. From this perspective, work is considered the centrality of human life. The link between the work and the real world expresses the resistance of man (generally the human being) with the aim of transformation. It is from living work that man's emancipation action is born. This reaffirms his subjectivity as a worker through cooperation with other workers, with reference to the collective ethics of the common and human world.

The Theory of Evolution elaborated by the French biologist Jean-Baptiste de Lamark and, later, developed by Charles Robert Darwin, is considered by Engels (undated) in his analysis of the centrality of work in the process of human constitution. In view of this, it is work that humanizes man.

Engels (undated) understands that the relationship between man and nature as a possibility of survival originated work. Organs of the human body evolved with work, as well as its upright position. In this configuration, language and the brain show the specificity of human formation. Work and, as a consequence, the articulated word acted in the transformation of the human brain accompanied by sensory organs. Language was constituted from the evolution of the vocal organs and, therefore, with the expansion of articulated sounds due to the need for men to communicate with each other. Language is the expression of the conscience of the real.

But, man begins to differentiate himself from animals by his conscience when producing his way of life. According to Engels (undated, p. 27): “[…] One can only talk about work from the moment when elaborate, manufactured instruments appear[…]”. Therefore, conscience corresponds to the real life of the individual, it is a social product. In view of this, as Marx and Engels (1996, p. 37) remind us: “[…] It is not consciousness that determines life, but life that determines consciousness [...]”.

In a dialectic relationship, man has a connection with work in an uninterrupted process from the development of language, brain and senses, with the evolution of his consciousness and his growing capacity for discernment and abstraction. In this way, he demonstrates his ability to perform complex operations and reach higher goals, manifesting his will, “[…] the mark of will is not imprinted on any planned act of any animal. Only man makes use of it [...] (ENGELS, undated, p. 32). Man is the only one capable of thinking and planning his actions due to the development of his brain and language. “[…] The more man distances himself from animals, the more he exerts an intentional and planned influence on nature in order to achieve previously projected objectives […]” (ENGELS, s/d, p. 31). Consequently, man's relationship with nature through work carries out a process of awareness and emancipation.

However, man's relationship with work as a form of emancipation tends to be annulled when he loses control of his workforce by being subjected to a situation of domination. Although such subjection has already occurred since the primitive family, still predominant in the phase of community property in a more advanced condition of development, its intensification is inherent to the capitalist mode of production constituted by the dominant and the oppressed classes. The domination and control of the workforce by the dominant class also exposes the division between those who plan and those who execute, constituting the idealist conception of the world, as if acts were the result of thought and not of human needs.

Capital is, then, a social relation of domination legitimized by the idealist conception of the world. Capital is based on control over the working class, what reproduces it is the fact that workers behave like proletarians predisposed to the production of surplus value. “[…] Consequently, the interests of the ruling class became the driving agent of production, which was limited to maintaining, for better or worse, the miserable existence of the oppressed […]” (ENGELS, s/d, p. 36). In this situation, the condition of emancipation inherent to work becomes a condition of alienation. The alienated labor force becomes the objective of the dominant class for the maintenance of its domination.

Work as an educational principle expresses the identity between education and work, since the origin of education coincides with that of man. However, in the capitalist mode of production, the education that was fully identified with the work process itself is separated into education for the owning class and education for the workers. Therefore, the determination suffered by the work-education relationship means that only the formation of the working class is linked to the world of production for the exercise of manual work with reference to the social division of labor (SAVIANI, 2007). Capitalists perpetuate their domination, mainly through the split between intellectual and manual work, with the aim of obtaining immediate profits and, therefore, increasing capital.

It is in the large industry based on machinery that the subjection of labor to capital takes place through the separation between the intellectual forces of the work process and manual work. The individual is divided and only develops a productive activity as an accessory of the capitalist workshop, his specialized task adjusts him to each particular operation in the division of labor, which ensures the control of production according to the capitalist interest. Capital establishes a scale of wages according to the hierarchy of labor forces. The hierarchical gradation of the workforce is composed of skilled and unskilled workers. For the latter, the expenses with learning disappear, for the former they decrease when compared to those of artisans before the division of labor imposed by manufacture, since their functions are simplified. In both cases the value of labor power decreases. The relative depreciation of the labor force with the decrease in expenditure on learning means that capital has an immediate increase in surplus value. “[…] Everything that partial workers lose is concentrated in capital […]” (MARX, 1996, p. 26). Performing simple operations in customary occupations, the worker has his intelligence limited and his courage annulled.

In the era of neoliberal capitalism, the capitalist classes not only impose the reduction of expenses with workers' schooling for the immediate increase of surplus value. But, in addition, they operate the scrapping, dismantling and demoralization of public school institutions under the action of the State for its private appropriation.

The capitalist classes have always tried to hide the functions of educational institutions in the social configuration, especially the functions of public primary schools, which are mandatory organizations for working-class children. Such schools, in accordance with the interests of the capitalist classes, are aimed at the inculcation of stereotypes and moral values ​​in open opposition to working-class ways of life. To this end, teachers in these schools rarely have the task of stimulating and valuing students, therefore, they do not tend to contribute to students so that they have access to culture and assimilate knowledge that enables the development of the ability to think. In this orientation, teachers usually reproduce domestication techniques, methods to condition and maintain order, predominating in schools a routine, repetitive and without content character. Teachers are expected to be part of a policy of control aimed at establishing the foundations of a new social configuration, so their training undergoes an intensive process of surveillance and policing (VARELA and FERNANDEZ-URIA, 1992).

However, Dejours (2009 and 2012) considers that work can be a mediator of emancipation and a means of subverting social domination. Emancipation is the movement that aims to free the individual from domination. The author notes that work is a social relationship and not just an activity, working is experiencing the resistance of the social world and, more directly, of social relationships in the constitution of intelligence and subjectivity. That is why “[…] being intelligent at work is always being distant from procedures and prescriptions. Working well implies breaking the recommendations, regulations, procedures, codes, terms of reference, the prescribed organization […]” (Dejours, 2012, p. 32). According to the author, the gap between the prescribed work and its concrete reality will always exist and must be invented or discovered at every moment by the person who works. It is in real work that the subject resists, because the real world resists.

According to Dejours (2009 and 2012), all work confronts the worker with the real, therefore, it is a living work, in which man, through work on himself, his subjectivity on himself in the process of elaboration, imposes his will in constant struggle against domination and in “[...] confrontation with the organizational constraints that make the use of intelligence impossible and do not give creativity, discovery, ingenuity any possibility of manifestation [...]” (DEJOURS, 2012, p. 17). The subject's encounter with reality causes affective suffering, which protects subjectivity in search of means to act on the world and transform this suffering by finding ways to overcome alienation. The relationship between suffering and reality makes the subjectivity of the subject evolve. It is in the course of time that the subject is working that his sensitivity and subjectivity develop and expand. “[…] Working constitutes, for subjectivity, a provocation that transforms it […]” (DEJOURS, 2012, p. 34). The skill that the subject develops at work transforms and improves it. “[…] Suffering, while it is absolute affectivity, is at the origin of this intelligence that goes in search of the world to experience itself, to transform itself, to expand itself [...]” (DEJOURS, 2012, p. . 26).

Dejours (2009 and 2012) clarifies that a theory of living work allows thinking about the principles of a new work policy that regains control over the organization of work. However, living work does not concern the individual order, it consists in the formation of a collective will that is in struggle against domination and in search of emancipation. It is in this direction that the thesis of the centrality of work can be sustained. Recognizing work as emancipation must be a priority of this policy. Politics begins well before freedom, which is the opposite of slavery, and between servitude and freedom it is necessary to interpose the question of emancipation.

In the era of neoliberal capitalism, a policy of social insecurity prevails, centering on the self-entrepreneur against the protected employee, the domination of capital over work imposes precariousness as a form of existence and as a lifestyle. In this context, the worker behaves as an individual-capital in all areas of collective action, especially in the public service (LAVAL, 2019). The evolution of forms of business organization of work and management in the neoliberal era mobilizes the predominance of evaluation as a means of intimidation and domination with the sacrifice of subjectivity in the name of profitability and competitiveness. “[…] The result is an aggravation of mental pathologies at work throughout the western world, the appearance of new pathologies, suicides perpetrated in the workplace itself, which did not occur, under any circumstances, before the neoliberal domain [… ]” (DEJOURS, 2012, p. 43).

The main psychic driver of voluntary servitude and willingness to participate in evil may be fear of precariousness and loneliness. The fear of loneliness is the feeling of deprivation of recognition. The impossibility of dealing with this deprivation puts the individual in a situation of vulnerability that can make him a vassal, a submissive and an opportunist ready to betray his moral sense and values ​​to avoid psychic destabilization based on his insecurity. Fear impedes significant movements of resistance and results in unfailing growth in productivity and profitability in live work (DEJOURS, 2009 and 2012). This condition of the individual is explored in the capitalism of the neoliberal era. In the conjuncture of precariousness, capital's complete lack of commitment to workers even in the sense of their social reproduction prevails, who are led to acquire, as a consumer, the services that should be guaranteed to them as social rights. This worker who behaves as an individual-capital distances himself and does not recognize himself as such, he is convinced that his success or failure is solely in his hands, this certainty mobilizes his cruelest instinct for competition and sustains acceptance. and the ostentation of the entrepreneurial identity.

The capital-individual manifests his obedience and, consequently, his zeal, his dedication and his intelligence in a world of work of desert and desolation. The experience of servitude takes place in the constraint to produce imposed by domination. However, faced with the resistance of the real, the capital-individual can affirm his will for emancipation in an ordeal with himself in opposition to servitude. In living work, working is not just producing, it is also transforming. The sensitive interest in emancipation recognizes the space of politics. The policy space is structured as a public space for cooperation (DEJOURS, 2009 and 2012).

Cooperation constituted in the public space can contribute to questioning and overcoming practices that reproduce individual interests concerning the private sphere and that annul the collective commitment to the common good. This commitment to the common good enables the individual to use himself as capital and constitutes his identification with the condition of a worker whose practice is based on the experience of other workers. This change occurs through the recognition of their identity as workers capable of collectively cooperating for a common work of creating solidarity against adversity and domination. Thus, the worker's intelligence manifests itself as disobedience with zeal and dedication against domination and in the elaboration of collective action for the construction of the material conditions for his liberation. The possibility of emancipation at work lies in the revolt against precariousness as a way to build solidarity that reaffirms cooperation in the constitution of a collective commitment to a work policy that guarantees the public sphere.

The very condition of suffering of the capital-individual in the precarious situation of work can make him recognize resistance as the truth of the real world, which disrupts his certainty and his selfishness. From this perspective, the alienated and subjugated capital-individual is faced with his vulnerability as an object of capital, his only possibility of overcoming it is the discovery of cooperation as the art of building an emancipated collective that reaffirms the common good, culture, life , O world love. The collective public sphere that promotes the common good is constituted by the worker who expresses the imposition of his subjectivity against the disruptive and predatory capital. For that, it is necessary to make of its practice of resistance the reaffirmation of the lucid contribution of Marx (1996, p. 52): “Communism is not for us a state that must be established, an ideal for which reality will have to conform. to drive. We call communism the real movement that overcomes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from currently existing assumptions […]”. In this direction, the daily resistance against any capitalist domination constitutes the real movement that overcomes the current state of affairs.

*Joelma LV Pires is a professor at the Faculty of Education at the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU).

 

References


DEJOURS, Christophe. Live work. Work and emancipation. Translated by Franck Soudand. Brasilia: Parallel 15, 2012.

______. Work vivant: labor et emancipation. Paris: Editions Payot & Rivages, 2009.

ENGELS, Friedrich. The role of work in the transformation from ape to man. São Paulo: Global Editora, s/d.

LAVAL, Christian. Precariousness as a “lifestyle” in the neoliberal era. Paragraph, Jan./Jun. 2017, v. 5, no. 1, 2017. Available at: http://revistaseletronicas.fiamfaam.br/index.php/recicofi/article/view/566/500Accessed on: 6 Aug. 2019.

MARX, Carl. From manufacturing to automatic factory. In: GORZ, André. Critique of the division of labor. Translation by Estela dos Santos Abreu. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1996.

MARX, Karl; ENGELS, Friedrich. The German Ideology (Feuerbach). São Paulo: Editora Hucitec, 1996.

SAVIANI, Dermeval. Work and education; ontological and historical foundations. Brazilian Journal of Education, Rio de Janeiro, vol. 12, no. 34, p. 152-165, Jan./Apr. 2007.

VARELA, Julia; FERNANDEZ-URIA, Fernando. School machinery. Theory & Education, Porto Alegre, 6, 1992.

 

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