Find the word definition

wage slavery

n. (context pejorative English) Employment with an very low income or dependence on wages for survival.

Wage slavery

Wage slavery refers to a situation where a person's livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate. It is a pejorative term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person.

The term wage slavery has been used to criticize exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops), and the latter as a lack of workers' self-management, fulfilling job choices, and leisure in an economy. The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical society to perform otherwise unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their "species character" not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome. With the advent of the industrial revolution, thinkers such as Proudhon and Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery, while Luddites emphasized the dehumanization brought about by machines. Before the American Civil War, Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North. The United States abolished slavery after the Civil War, but labor union activists found the metaphor useful. According to Lawrence Glickman, in the Gilded Age, "References abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labor leader without the phrase."

The introduction of wage labor in 18th century Britain was met with resistance, giving rise to the principles of syndicalism. Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists have espoused workers' self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.

Usage examples of "wage slavery".

Industrial society all over again, and that's the end of freedom and brotherhood, because we'll need wage slavery to—.

When you have periods of working class solidarity, people struggling together to create unions and decent working conditions, a republic of labor in which people would control their work and not have to suffer wage slavery.

Primitive communism, chattel slavery, serf slavery, and wage slavery were necessary stepping-stones in the evolution of society.

Reading matter for young people before the Second World War was a dozen universes removed from the unwanted pregnancies and incest and minimum-wage slavery and treacherous high school friendships and so on in the novels of Polly Madison.

I thought of my old man, who came to America in 1908 with big dreams--but married the first German emigrant woman he met and settled for wage slavery with Pacific Gas and Electric.