Slavery and modern management

The following article in the New York Times, American Capitalism Is Brutal, You Can Trace That To The Plantation, describes in an excellent manner how modern management systems have their roots in slavery and plantation economy. A short summary: an efficient plantation required an elaborate bookkeeping to keep track of each slave’s productivity. Hence a multilayered system of supervision of labor was necessitated.

Modern businesses, large enterprises in particular, are hardly any different from 19th century plantation in regard to their organizational model. Though your “boss”, who is most likely to be just an intermediate employee himself (similar to a plantation overseer), might not whip your back, the current wage labor is only a slight, gradual improvement over chattel slavery.

If we really want to establish a republican society and to get rid of corporatocracy, we need to replace the wage labor system with an economy based on self-employment and cooperatives. With the additional benefit that worker cooperatives seem to be more productive than “traditional” businesses.

Unlike to common belief, a society’s economic system is not the result of pure chance but the product of (deliberate) government policy. Therefore the authorities could and should implement policies to promote worker cooperatives. In the long run this might be a more successful way to structurally address economic inequality than pursuing the current and broken system of progressive taxation.

3 thoughts on “Slavery and modern management”

    1. “with better terms for some”

      This is the key here. The illusion of getting promoted is a stimulus for the oppressed to support the existing system.

      As pointed out in the NYT article, the ambition of both free persons and slaves, the become slave owners was one of the thing that helped to survival of slavery.

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