Essay On South Africa’s Labor Empire

South Africa’s Labor Empire represents a unique colonial order based on racial differences and labor relations. The retention of the market and of private ownership were necessary to secure competition between a plurality of social powers, and so guarantee market stability for the white capitalists. Working class of the South Africa were faced with both racial discrimination and labor exploitation, but kept its unique features and community institutions.

Economic exchange and economic relations determined the structure of the working class. Taking into account Marxist’s approach, the greater the specialization of production the more extensive and complex would be market oper¬ations. This would be socially beneficial, for the market was the context within which the actions of the self-interested were co-coordinated for mutual benefit. Economic relation was of major concern for all workers including foeld workers and factory workers. “Economic conflicts between Afrikaans- and English-speaking whites are likewise settled where possible by introducing some kind of racial discrimination from which both stand to gain (Class Struggle & National Liberation, n.d.).

Help With Essay On South Africa’s Labor Empire

Help With Essay On South Africa’s Labor Empire

With heightening class conflict and a growing tendency to look to state intervention as a remedy for social and economic dislocation, this vision of industrial society had lost much of its intellectual appeal by the beginning of the twentieth century. Working class depended on competition, but economic competition, in contrast to political rivalry, was essentially pacific and non-violent. What was emphasized was the market as a system of free exchanges rather than as an arena of compe¬tition; the persistent association of free trade and the pacification of economic relations relied on this emphasis. In spite of great tension and oppression expatriated by working class they had certain independence in contrast to American slaves. They could choose types of work they perform and work in one community. “Farmers avoid that other thorny labor problem, the competition between white and black workers, by simply employing Africans and Coloured on all sorts of manual work, both skilled and unskilled” (Class Struggle & National Liberation, n.d.).

In these states, owners attracted further flows of productive capital, and the control function expands to ensure the protection and the reproduction of financial markets. In sum, new elite provided reforms in order to meet personal interests and support industries owned by them. A good amount of the world’s systematic inequality followed directly from the flow of capital, both geographically and from productive to financial circuits.

Historians argue that working class was powerful economic and leading social force, corresponding convergence between the social structures of East and West. Workers and rural families suffered the most, as industrialization forced others to the fast track where their incomes and profits increased, while they themselves watched the economic distance between them and their neighbors increase continually. It is a characteristic of capitalism that those who cannot participate in the profit-building capitalistic activities grow farther and farther behind economically, and this was certainly the case with South African society. Urbanization had led to many problems that could not be dealt with easily, and the country was still economically unstable because poverty still existed, with a large income gap between the poorest families and those at the top of the industrialized economy. This disparity in socioeconomic status has never been resolved, even though many other improvements have been made since then. The expanded capitalist class emerging during the boom challenged the financial dominance of the big banks, which managed the supply of domestic investment funds.

In spite of some the facts mentioned above, many working families were faced with difficult economic situation and lack of money. Economic relations were of major concern for all people: Africans and Coloured. People become poor and poor but could do noting to improve the situation caused primarily by new industrial and economic relations. The great irony was that new economic conditions were aimed to improve economic situation in the country, instead they put into debt thousands of people. Another important feature of these relations was that in Nigeria for instance “there were a number of other forms of labor mobilization even in towns (village groups) where a number of slaves lived” (African Working Class History vs African Labor History, 1996).

Religion was one of the united factors which influenced working class. The individuals who compose working class felt themselves bound to each other by the very fact that they have a common faith. Race differences helped to understand the notion of race as a cultural (or better to say social) phenomenon. On the one hand, race and culture were fully expressed and developed requires that the people forming the race enjoy the right to decide upon their common political destiny. Although, “South Africa uniquely demonstrated that a dominant racial minority could perpetuate social rigidities and feudalistic traits on an advanced and expanding industrial base” (Class Struggle & National Liberation, n.d.).

Family forms were certainly changing but not necessarily for the worse, in the sense of threatening social stability. The most impor¬tant development was the widespread incorporation of women into the labor force and the consequences for patterns of child rearing. This redefinition of family and its mean¬ing that began in the working class under such pressures was reinterpreted and extended by women at all levels to begin evolving a multi-earner, joint career model of the family unit. Slavery lasted well into the twentieth century and freed women worked for subsistence. Throughout the colonial period, most wage labor was reserved to men, whose wages were too low to support families. Women were relegated to crop production and frequent childbearing. South African empire favored the participation of women and children. The employment of women and children allowed the agricultural sector to increase its productivity. It is important to note that children’s wages were notoriously low while women’s wages were usually between one-third of men’s. Urban growth provided all sorts of jobs outside industry, for instance in building which were filled by men.

People who escaped to the cities resorted to petty trade and selling services, including sex. While some were able to achieve substantial economic independence and social freedom in informal sector occupations, the majority were poor. At the same time, widespread insecurity, added to labor-intensive production techniques, low crop prices and gender inequality within households made the villages particularly unattractive to women (Beck, 2000).

Organized labor and trade unions were the main features of this period of time. Traditionally, labor unions were created in order to advance and protect the interests of their members, primarily workers. Most of these were affiliated to the voluntary body, which had as its objects to promote the interests of all its affiliated organizations and generally to improve the social and economic conditions of the workers. Broader issues of policy affecting trade unions were also discussed with members. Employ¬ers were continually under pressure to ensure that resources were fully utilized and labor costs were stabilized or reduced. Their main concern was to maintain and improve their standard of living. “Whether African slave systems producing commodities for “legitimate” trade in the capitalist world economy quite fit that bill may be questionable, since unlike American plantations, the property relations over means of production other than labor (esp. land) weren’t capitalist” (African Working Class History vs African Labor History, 1996). These new capitalist “players” felt confident because of the economic growth and wealth of the period and essentially thumbed their noses at the big banks. White owners started showing signs of tiredness and working class actions were bound to intensify (Beck, 2000).

Trade unions and organized labor was looking for improvements in working conditions, stability of employment and satisfaction in their work. Although interests were not usually the same, especially when industrial changes kept occurring con¬stantly, there was one common point of interest between employees, and that was to ensure continuity of production and hence employ¬ment – to keep the enterprise viable. “That is, they represent a sort of proto- proletarianization in which physical coercion of alienated labor operated mainly through direct control of the bodies of laborers, and it was their bodies, rather than their labor-power, which were commodified” (African Working Class History vs African, 1996).

Workers became more skillful and prepared for their work. To a large extent the skills of manual workers were developed by on-the-job training, so the existence in Africa of a reasonable industrial base in industries such as gold mining was a valuable asset. In these industries skills were built up through long experience and were very difficult to transmit on paper. In practice employers accepted it because it provided a cheap mechanism for the transmission of skills to new workers.

To analyze the issue of working class struggle, it should be mentioned that racisms was “regimes of power” organized via institutional frameworks as part of the disciplinary power of state agencies, but which is subject to ongoing contestations. It should be mentioned that in contrast to a concept of a nation, race does not belong to a particular country (some countries, a part of the world, a continent), so the geographical boundaries are not clearly identified. Race gave strength and resilience to working class in so far as it reflects their own identification with an entity that transcends them in a broad context.

Economic changes reshaped relationships between employers and workers, widening the social gulf between them. This eventually resulted in a challenge to the rights of property with an articulation of the rights of men, the emergence of working class consciousness. Specialization increased the productivity, and therefore the productivity of human capital. Instead of it taking years to train an all-round worker, a detail worker acquired sufficient skill in a few weeks or months and still worked much faster, and received higher wages (for instance in gold mining) (Beck, 2000). Also, it is important to note that these wages were very low in contrast to British workers.

In sum, the working class in South Africa was faced with different tendencies which marked its uniqueness. On the one hand, labor relations were based on exploitation, but the trade unions and their policies were aimed to protect diverse workers groups. It means that the social values were influenced through the impact of class relations on society. In this way class power affected the thoughts and desires of its victims without them being aware of it. The laboring population was subtly graduated with skills and social aspirations within communities. In addition, gender played an important part in determining respective wage levels—women and girls were generally paid less than men and boys, but supported general earning of their families.

1. African Working Class History vs African Labor History. 1996.
2. Beck, R.B. The History of South Africa. Greenwood Press, 2000.
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