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Wage Slavery

Wage slavery is a term describing a situation in which a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate. It has been used to criticise exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labour 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. Historically, some socialist organisations and activists have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labour.