[OPE] Guard Labor

From: michael perelman <michael@ecst.csuchico.edu>
Date: Sat Jan 23 2010 - 20:52:07 EST

My article on Guard Labor is in the new issue of Dollars and Sense. It
is extracted from my forthcoming book, The Invisible Handcuffs.


The article begins:

Guards are everywhere in a capitalist economy. A few are dressed up in
uniforms, so they are easy to spot. But most do not look like guards at
all. Some sit in comfortable offices; others work on assembly lines in
factories. James OíConnor, a prolific sociologist from UC Santa Cruz,
describes one familiar set of guards whom we do not usually think of as

Consider the labor of the ticket seller at a movie house. The sellerís
task is merely to transfer the right to sit in the theater to the
movie-goer in exchange for the price of a ticket. But it may not be
immediately obvious that it is not the lack of a ticket that keeps you
out of the theater ... The ticket is actually torn up and discarded by a
husky young man who stands between the box office and the seat that I want.

These guards are a central feature of capitalism. Capitalists depend
upon guard labor to protect their commodities, including the goods and
premises they own, but especially the labor-power in their employ.
Capitalismís reliance on guard labor deforms the entire productive
process, not only wasting labor, but also snuffing out badly needed

Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA
530 898 5321
fax 530 898 5901
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Received on Sat Jan 23 20:54:35 2010

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