Socialists have long contended that capitalism produces distinctive and undesirable structures of time. Marx argued that capitalism created an ineluctable downward pressure on wages, forcing workers to work long hours in order to earn enough to sustain themselves. By the same token, lengthening the working day was one of the ways by which employers could increase the production of surplus-value. Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, added that capitalism disciplined workers by creating a kind of ideology of work, a moral compulsion to labor; although, in Lafargue’s view, this was in part responsible for capitalism’s periodic crises of overproduction, it was one of the ways by which employers were able to enforce work discipline
Big changes in the global economy and world politics have put new questions on the table for labor movements around the world. Can workers regain the initiative against the tidal wave of corporate downsizing and government cutbacks? Can unions revive their ranks and reignite the public imagination? Is labor rising from the ashes?