[OPE-L:6557] [OPE-L:23] Something *entirely* different

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 18 May 1998 20:37:42 -0400 (EDT)

[From Alan]

In the spirit of Jerry's request for new ideas.

I've had to present a course on labour economics, something I've never done
before. Three of my students decided they wanted to study discrimination in
the labour market, so we started looking at the labour contract.

Reading Marx on the labour contract, I noticed something I didn't see
before; he says the contract has to be limited in duration, or it is
slavery. If the worker doesn't have the formal freedom to renew the
contract each week or month or year, then labour-power is no longer being
sold as a commodity but becomes an obligation in perpetuity.

In a long footnote he discusses the institution of peonage, in which people
undertook obligations in labour services which became so big that it
started to involve their families, transmitting what had become a slave
relation from one generation to the next.

It strikes me that the marriage contract is not renewable. But it carries
clear labour obligations.

It seems to be that, logically, it is therefore a form of slavery.