TRANSCRIPT FOR EPISODE 9 OF THE HEARTH PODCAST
HOW LAND PRIVATIZATION, THE INQUISITION AND THE MONEY ECONOMY SHAPED OUR WORLD OF WORK
The world of work has lots of expectations and rules: the way people behave, the way we dress, the amount of time we work and not work, our capacity for handling stress, these are all often unspoken and unexamined assumptions about the way that work "should be".
We expect all people, regardless of their personal abilities, morals and capacity, to conform to these expectations. We do this to the extent where we force people to overrule their innate needs to function within this system. And then as every generation enters the workforce we wonder why they're so different from us; why they "can't handle" what we can. But we've just become acclimated to work culture and to its abuses (not even seeing them as abuses anymore), and pass on the wounds that we have suffered, just as parents pass on their wounds to their children.
But the times are changing, and there are change-makers who are deciding to take a different path. This week's episode of The Hearth is the first of a 2-part miniseries that looks deeper at how we created our current agreements about what is and isn't "work". This episode examines the power dynamics in Europe that shaped the nature of work into what it is today, specifically looking into the development and exportation of systems of oppression.
I was driven to this research because I hear a lot about "systems of oppression" being at fault for prejudices we experience today. I wanted to understand really how those systems came into being, uncovering the unspoken. It turns out that story goes much further back than the research that I have conducted so far, but it's a start, and I'm grateful to be able to share it with you now.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT
Hello brave souls and welcome to the Hearth.
For the past few solo episodes I've shared some of the ways to prioritize rest, healing and downtime to be able to fully embody purpose in work and for me personally part of that purpose is to share what I have learned about the use of power and how it has shaped work into what it is today.
I think that as business owners, owners or leaders or you know heads of departments, executive directors, we have a lot of power and we assume business assume that we must use that power in a certain kind of way. That is currently socially acceptable. And that by doing that we actually create inequities. And that for those of us who want to not perpetuate the inequities of the past, it requires us to take an in depth look into how systems of power have been and how they have transitioned over hundreds, if not 1000s of years and especially a trends that have to do with workers and the workforce
I've been doing research on this for decades, like literally two decades. And this is the first time that I'm sharing like a real totality of this work. All at once in this form. And and it's going to happen in two episodes. So this episode is going to focus on power structures that affect the society and the workplace up until the 20th century. So up until 1900. And then the next episode is going to talk about the shifts that happened at the end of the 19th century and continuing until today. Because there's a pretty big shift that happens there.
And that really affects the structure and agreements of the workplace. A lot of the work that I do with human resources is like explaining all of that part of it that I don't often get to talk about this part of it that I'm going to be sharing today.
So what sort of led me to putting together this body of work in its current iteration to share is that in early 2022 I read a report by Pew Research that was inquiring into the great resignation. So they interviewed tons of people who had resigned from their jobs during that sort of 2021 period of time, and they asked them a lot of questions. But, you know, one question that they asked was, what were the primary reasons for you leaving your job and about 67% of people left their jobs, to try to make more money or to try to get a promotion and I see those two as pretty similar things. The numbers were actually the same. So you know, making more money and getting a promotion tend to coincide with one another. And then about 50% I think might have been a little bit more than 50%. That's half. Were leaving because they felt disrespected. And then these numbers get higher when you look both at younger generations of workers and at people of color. Within the study.
And so, you know, later in 2022, quiet quitting became a thing and it just became apparent to me that there are trends that are identified in the workforce, that are really symptoms of greater structural and power dynamics that are unjust, that are intrinsic to how many workplaces operate, and that going back 10 years or 20 years wasn't going to really even 100 years wasn't really going to get at that information that I needed personally in order to understand how we got to the place that we are at today.
Where 50% of people class of people are leaving their jobs because they feel disrespected. More than half of people who are leaving their jobs are doing it to make more money. They don't feel like they can do that with the job that they have, right how did we get to that place?
And um, so I've already talked about some you know, in these previous episodes, I have talked about some of the things that are that can help you as a leader, and people who are workers to set expectations and boundaries around capacity and to have skills for communication that can help to navigate these issues when they come up issues of not making enough money, issues of you know, why don't I get a promotion and issues of feeling disrespected, creating safe space, so we can talk about that if it happens.
And so, I started with those things. You know, trauma informed approach building capacity for rest, and undertaking cycles of service and having an understanding of cycles of service in order to counteract the unsustainable pressures of the workplace. But, but the root cause of why people are unhappy at work, really is this power structure.
And so before we dive into this I want to let you know that we that I will talk about some very sensitive topics in this episode. And it is because the way we have created work has been caused by and dependent on very awful forms of subjugation and repression. And we're going to talk about things that are very personal and bodily, things that have happened to our ancestors. And I recommend you know, anyone who's listening to this, just like give yourself some time. If it's too much to be listening to all at once, then stop and come back. If you feel your body getting really tense and tight and like you need a break. Then give yourself some deep breaths. Shake your arms and your legs. Get your you know, get yourself into your body. Like remind yourself that you're in your body, you’re safe. I've had to do this countless times as I've been, like reworking and reinvestigating all of these pieces of history on some of them are really, really hard to remember, and to fundamentally understand. So some of the things that are included in this conversation. And this is by no means an extensive list are the subjugation of women slavery, rape, infanticide, war, abortion, pandemic, torture, and abuses of the church. So again, you know if it's too much all at once, give yourself some time. You don't need to listen to everything all at once and if you need to shake it out, like I'm doing right now, then go ahead and do that.
So the part of history that I'm focusing on here in this work is the development of the current agreements about what constitutes work/labor/valuable labor, centered in Europe, and especially on the experience of women, the working class, which includes slaves, serfs and the working poor, and colonized peoples, so people who were colonized by European aristocracy.
And the reason that I'm focusing on this part of history for now, is that these groups are currently the most adversely affected by the work systems that we have in place, this is the legacy of systems of oppression.
I want to as a side note, because I found this really disturbing in my research, is that when you look at the International Labor Organization's numbers about who falls into what kinds of economic classes, currently, 4 billion people or half of the world are in poverty. Of that group, there are 50 million and that's probably an underreported number, who are slaves. And so that poverty and that slavery exists in our world, in our community, wherever we live, it's here in some capacity. Which means that we have a responsibility for it.
So that's another question of like, how did we get to this point, where more than half of us don't have the means to sustain ourselves.
Another note about the research that I have done is that in places that are other than European societies, my research is focused on what happened after colonization and immediately before and so this, what you're gonna listen to today, it does not include a history of work. In places like China or North Korea.
I am very interested in learning more about what happened in countries that were not colonized. And I'm sure that eventually I'll get to those histories as well. But so currently, what this body of work talks about is immediately prior to colonization, colonization, and then also the global marketplace that we're currently participating in that pretty much every country is participating in with the exception of a few.
So if you are interested in learning more about both the historical events that I present during this talk and sort of the approach that I am taking, then I recommend reading Sylvia Federici’s Caliban and the witch: women the body and primitive accumulation. Most of the like numbers and sources and quotes that I'm sharing here can be found in that book and and in the works of the authors that are cited in her bibliography. And all of these things are things that you can just Google like most of them are just widely available on the internet it’s not like I’m making up a history here it's well documented.
So throughout this narrative, there is a commingling of power between the church, first Catholic and then Protestant, with the ruling classes lords and kings. And so, in the shift from the Middle Ages, to the Industrial Age, laws and social practices were created to define the rights and crimes of the working class. And what did and did not constitute labor. As pressures increased from the ruling class, litigation and revolts were instigated by the working people to protect themselves from abuses. This struggle was primarily unsuccessful until the 20th century, with the exception of a period from about 1350 to 1500. In the wake of the Black Death, where the real wage increased by 100%, prices declined by 33%. And just generally there was a tendency in the working classes toward more local sufficiency and more power over their work and workday, and the content of their work.
So that’s like an overview of what we're gonna go over. One of the foundational theories that I want to present early on before we get into the story of this history and describes the change from feudal to capitalist economy. And the words shift and transition and change, do not really adequately describe the changes that occurred and instead some historians and myself prefer a term which is called primitive accumulation. And I'll be using the term accumulation. So I want you to know what that means.
So primitive accumulation is the process by which the body was transformed into a work machine over the course of hundreds of years. It is the way that women were subjugated into the reproduction of the workforce as well. It includes the intentional development of hierarchies that are built on sex and racial status. And that required the destruction of the power of women and indigenous peoples, including those peoples who were indigenous to Europe, the working poor of Europe, the serfs and slaves that were there.
The shift from feudal to capitalist economy necessitated the accumulation of vast numbers of subjugated peoples and slaves. And this exploitation was made possible by separating the worker from the means of production and the product of his or her labor. And so how did that all happen?
Like we haven't even really gotten ourselves out of this subjugation relationship because if if we look at how the market works currently, we have countries that are producer are countries where wages are incredibly low, and then we have countries that are consumer countries that are basically determining what the value of the work is in the worker countries. Even within the United States we have the outsourcing of work to states with lower costs of living. So this is a process which is ongoing, that we participate in either willingly and knowingly or by default because we don’t realy understand what’s going on. So how do we get here?
We're gonna go back to the fifth to seventh centuries. So that's 4000 to 6000. I was happy to do that math in my head. I'm like okay, century two year number. So in the fifth to seventh centuries, there was the development of the feudal state. This was happening at the end of the Roman Empire, the Roman Empire primarily built on the work of slaves and the subjugation of people through slavery.
So serfs in the feudal state were the working poor and were a combination of these former slaves and agricultural workers. One of the tenants of serfdom is that people received land in exchange for labor. So they were given a plot of land and then, when their Lord required their labor, for the harvest of their own crops or for different building projects at the Lord would then use the labor of the serfs that they had.
At the same time, and this becomes important later. The serfs also had the use of land that was called the comments. Common land is like forests and meadows and streams and lakes. It's land that is used for hunting and fishing for gathering, berries and herbs. And is a space where much of the culture of serfs occurred or festivals happened where women gathered were, you know serfs traded and marketed with one another.
So some of the other tenants of this time are that there was a rough, rough equality between male and female serfs. There was not equality, but they were more equally subjugated by their Lord, than what came to be later in capitalist society where women became at lower socio-economic status than men.
Through the way that states created laws about what women and men were and were not allowed to do and how their relationships were legislated.
So at this time, what we call reproductive labor, which is like the labor of having children of caring for the home of cooking of, you know, mostly work that happens in the in the home or around the home was its own form of work. And it was equally I'm not gonna say it was equally respected and valued, but it was respected and valued as its own form of work in a way that it isn’t later on.
And at this time, there's tons of litigation by serve, to limit the abuses of their lords. They're fighting to not pay ties to not pay taxes to limit the amount of labor that is required of them by their lords and it's this ongoing battle of litigation that's happening.
So that lays this groundwork for the Millenarians who come into the picture around the 12th century. So the Millenarians, were a type of religious sect that had what's called a liberation theology. So at a time of oppression, they believed that the church was corrupt, and that people could have their own access to God and to divinity, and self-actualization. And they were a revolt against the power structures of both the church and the Lords.
Within millenarian lands like the lands of the Cathars, the rights of women and Jews and other persecuted people were equal to those of everyone else. There's some quote that says that women in the church are nothing, but in the Millenarian society they are equal.
Millenarian is also had a range of perspectives related to labor. So, on the one hand, there is resistance to labor. So serfs, saying, No, we're not going to provide labor to you, lords. On the other side, there is this description of the value of labor and that a person is valuable. Their labor is valuable. A person has worth labor has worth. And it isn't just something to give away without some sort of I think Equal Exchange, reciprocal exchange and the Millenarians were really about an Egalitarian society
And then, they promoted sort of a range of practices related to sexuality. So all the way from abstinence, which many working well, many serfs were attracted to, because of the difficulty of their means of subsistence. So abstinence was something that people were interested in practicing because they didn't want to have children and to have to support them. On the other side of that, there was also a sexual liberation, which was that sex as a way to become closer to God, and a worship of female deities. And so it went all the way to that other side as well.
Even outside of sort of millenarian zones of Europe, place of women in society got kind of steadily better over that course of time, like from the fifth to the 12th centuries. Many women moved to cities participated in city life and had professional careers. Some of the careers that were traditionally men's that women started to be successful in were being butchers, ale makers, candlestick makers, and even physicians who were employed by the city. And there were even Jewish women who were physicians who were employed by I think it was the city of Frankfurt. In this time.
Women were able to hold full guild membership, which later was denied to them. And then the things started to change.
Throughout this full time, there were revolts and they were actually called emotions. These revolts centered around an aspiration to a more egalitarian society very millenarian in philosophy, or theology. And during the course of these revolts, the term heretic was used to identify a person who was participating in a revolt against the power structure. And so, this term heretic becomes important later on, especially as it relates to women.
The reason these revolts are happening is because for many people life in the city was in some ways, much worse than serfdom. People had literally no freedoms like they, they were not allowed to congregate more than, like, more than one person at a time together. And their pay was extremely low. And so what happened is that there was a massive withdrawal of labor. So, serfs and working poor in the city is withdrew their labor, meaning that harvests spoiled and there were lots of military deserters. It was almost impossible. For military commanders at that time to keep their forces together.
So there's this huge withdrawal of labor, but there are people who are on this land, right. This leads to a shift from labor payments to rent payments for serfs. And most serfs did not have enough land to even be able to support themselves. Let alone pay a rent to a lord. It resulted in huge loss of land, the accumulation of debt and people who were we will call now homeless.
Along with that shift of losing land there was also the fact that it became more difficult for people who lived on the land and who are working it to be able to measure their work. So if it's no longer clear that my labor is going to my lord for specific tasks. And my labor is going to my plot of land and myself for other tasks. And instead what I'm doing is just working my land and paying out a portion of that to my Lord, then I can no longer tell how much of my work is for myself and how much of my work is for my Lord, it becomes unclear in a way that it wasn't previously.
And what this began to create were class differences among the poor, so that you then had working poor who were able to hold on to their land, who then would hire people to work for them at any at a lower rate of pay, or, you know, maybe it's just like room and board or something like that. This time, there's also the creation of these class differences among the poor.
But then, the black death happened. And Black Death plague decreased the population of Europe, more between 30 and 40%. So completely turned upside down social hierarchies. It also undermines social discipline because people were so familiar with death. So, for the power structure during this time with this massive loss of humans, the role of women becomes to reproduce people and to reproduce the workforce.
This definition of heresy shifts from those who are working against the power structures of the state and whatever form to contraception. Any woman who is using contraception, who has an abortion, conceals a pregnancy comes a heretic. And this is where the shift of the role of women in the workplace really starts to differentiate from the role of men at work. And it's because the role of women becomes to reproduce and to do all of this reproductive labor.
But initially, right after the Black Death, it was an amazingly good time for the lower classes of workers. An example form the Rhine and the Danube, the daily agricultural wage was the same in purchasing power to the price of a pig or a sheep, insanely high. It was achievement of a standard of living that was unparalleled until the 19th century.
So there are some quotes about how amazing and how awful this was from the perspective of the workers and from the Lord's. On the one side we hear that some workers were paid for every single day of the year. And even when they didn't work on Sunday and the main holidays, and there were so many holidays back then it alike all of the the saints days was a holiday. There were a lot of them. And the employers fed their workers, and they paid them for their commute to and from work and.
On the employer side or on the Lord's side. They were furious because people refuse to work. They refuse to continue working after they'd satisfied their own needs. They can obviously do more quickly because they were making 100% More than they were before. Was this stubborn determination within these workers to hire themselves out only for limited tasks. So like I'm only going to do this one part, which makes me think of sort of freelancers and independent contractors right now and the this like fight against like allowing that type of work. And then there they had these demands for perks besides their wages. And then the one that just I love the most is that they started wearing ostentatious clothing, like clothing that was so similar to what the Lord's were wearing. So like, Oh, now they're making all of this money and now they're wearing these beautiful clothes but it's ostentatious because they're working poor.
And it just I think it says a lot about that shift in dynamic of you know, when the people have power, especially if it's unexpected from the power structure. There are these complaints that come up. These are complaints that I hear even today, you know.
Okay, so then there was a pretty extensive counter revolution, a set of laws and practices that were instituted by the state in order to limit the power of the working classes and before I get into that, I just want to talk about uprisings that were happening at this time, because there were many uprisings. The Wheel of Fortune, which is a tarot card. The Wheel of Fortune which was starting to appear on the walls of taverns and workshops to symbolize this power shift. When this happened, entire regions revolted. In England, they had limited the maximum wage, they said you can only pay people this much you can't pay them any more. That caused the peasant uprising of 1381. And by the end of the 14th century, so the end of the 1300s the refusal of rent and services was happening all over the place and entire villages. Were not paying fines, taxes. and stopped recognizing the courts. It's like, court says this. I don't care. It doesn't matter. They have no power anyway, I have you know, I can take care of myself.
So in the face of this powers that be measures and one of them was to decriminalize rape, as long as it was a low class woman. The reason for doing this was to stop these uprisings, to give the men something to do other than rise up men and women, something to do other than rise up against the power structure of the state. So instead of having uprisings, groups of men would go around their towns and cities in the night and take low class women out of their homes and rape them. And one of the quotes from Silvia Federichi, that I think sums this up is that they could be raped with impunity and then punished for it.
So what this did was it undermined class solidarity, and the ability that the lower classes had to revolt against the power structures. And it created like a reprieve for the heads of cities and states and the Lords to kind of organize themselves around what they were going to do next. With the charge of heresy for contraception and the role of women shifting to reproduction and reproductive labor, the decriminalization of rape it also disproportionately disadvantaged these women because they became convicted of crimes. Not only if they became pregnant and had children, but if they tried to or chose to not have those children.
Another part of the counter revolution is land expropriation. And there were two kinds of land expropriation that happened. One is war there was a huge increase in the size of armies, and a shift in the purpose of the army, which became to destroy the enemy and everything that lay in the path. You know, homes, towns, fields, people lost everything.
The other piece of this is that there was the enclosure of the commons. And I had mentioned the commons previously, and we're coming back to it now. So that the Commons became sort of the land that landless working poor, were able to use for subsistence. They no longer have their plots of lands as serfs, and continued to hold festivals, games and gatherings. They were the center of life, especially for women, where they could talk with each other and form their own opinions of what was going on in the world.
So as these lands became enclosed, and people could no longer live there or meet their or hunt there. There was a huge increase in the number of homeless poor. So at this time, the wage, you know, instead of you know previously where it was viewed as an instrument of freedom, wages began to be viewed as instruments of enslavement. So land, instead of being a means of subsistence then became a means of accumulation and exploitation which we will talk about more as the wage collapses.
Value became determined by the market and was defined by what generates money. So activities which generate money became valuable, whereas activities which do not generate money, became invaluable. And there was a separation a sexual separation at this time of the work of men was to create value for the market and the work of women, which was to reproduce workers and to do reproductive work, which is not paid to subsume all of the woman's work into the man's wage.
So this created a class of women who had almost no access to wages and were forced into chronic poverty, economic dependence and invisibility as workers. I mean in the records of payments that happen. Women's wages were not their own. They were there, their husbands, or their fathers wages. And so when a woman worked, you know, even if she was a wet nurse and feeding the baby of another woman from her breasts, those wages belonged to her husband. And so they were written down in records going to the husband and not going to the woman.
And at this time, work that was performed in the house, even if it was work that was done for the market. Like if a woman was sewing clothes to go to the market, or if she was making candles to go to the market or if she was preparing food that was gonna go to the market. None of that was ever recorded as her work and her value that was always the value and labor of the man, and that work, the work of women was called housework whereas the work of man was valuable and marketable.
It was a huge, a huge division. Labor, a huge division. of power, a huge shift, what had happened previously. Because of these things, the there was a wage collapse. And you know, an example is England, in 1550 male artists in 14 weeks to earn the income that 50 years ago, they had been able to make in 15 weeks, so it took almost three times the amount of time to make the same wages
In the 14th century, women, on average received half the pay of men for the same task. But by the mid 16th century, it was only a third of the reduced male wage. And they could no longer support themselves by wage work. Meat disappeared from their tables. In the Middle Ages, it was common for people to be eating 100 kilos, that’s 220 lbs, like more than a half a pound a day, per person annually. That went down to 22 lbs. And in the 19th century, it's actually only gone up to 45 lbs. So there was mass famine happening with the loss of land and commons.
And during this time, you know gold and silver that were coming from the New World and we're gonna get into colonization. The gold and silver were used to create prices for things like wheat creating commodities for a group that had no access to land and had to buy the food that they used to produce.
And at the same time, the ruling class is learning to use money to cut labor costs. So it's a real quagmire of the value of labor, the value of women's labor versus men's labor, the introduction of silver and gold into a butting capitalist system.
So then we go through these, you know, back and forth kind of like this is what the state does. And then this is what the people do. And so we get into resistance. So there's this struggle for food there's a fight against land privatization, against the imposition of new taxes. There's a fight against wage dependence. And there's a fight against the continuous presence of armies in neighborhoods.
Also, at this time, there is a rise of crimes against property and so on the one hand there are so there's the enclosure of common land which people had been able to commonly use. There are people who are struggling to survive. I think of like some Robin Hood movies that I've watched, right where there's a kid who, you know, killed a deer on the sheriff's land. This is the enclosure right? People used to be able to kill the deer and eat them but now that the land has been enclosed, and the people are starving. It becomes a crime to kill the deer.
So within this situation, all of these rebellions within this system where there is a rise of crime, the state emerges as the only agency that is capable of confronting the working class. So in order to bring people into line, there is this pursuit of social discipline and the development of criminality and crimes. So sports games, dances, festivals, and other group rituals become criminalized.
Then, in you know the time between 1530 to 50 and 6060 European towns create systems of public assistance. So they restructure themselves as basically guaranteeing the subjugation of the working class. So the state claims ownership of the workforce and division of labor, through these public assistance programs, making it conditional that people who receive public assistance have to work in workhouses or they're incarcerated. And these are people who are sent to these workhouses are elderly, children and women.
Like this system that we have is totally unsustainable how do we make it more sustainable? Okay, wait like we are the state and we have all this money, we got to figure out a way to give it to the people, okay, we're going to create public assistance, but we're not just gonna give it to them because they're alive and they deserve it because they're human and we're creating this messed up power structure. We're going to make them work for it. And so we get to define how much their labor is worth. And it’s not worth much because they’re no smart enough to be able to figure it out for themselves.
Following this, there is this you know, peak of demographic crisis that happens in the early 1600s 1620 to 60 and 30. At this time, the population of Europe is you know, it's declined. Germany, for example, has lost a third of its country's population by 1580. Children are being abandoned all over the place. 95% of people who are indigenous to Turtle Island, the Americas have died. 95%.
During this time, you see intense persecution of reproductive crimes, basically the persecution of witches. So women in Europe have been legally infantilized. Women have no right to their own economic activities and are completely socially devalued. They are believed now to be inherently inferior to men and have been placed under their control and yet they are forced to walk into the courtrooms of Europe in their own name being charged as witches and child murders.
In this time men are workers and women are non-workers. Women are a communal good, like the former common lands, because their non work activities available to all, and the family is the center of the concealment of women's labor. Women were only able to find very low paying positions like being a domestic servant, a farmhand a spinner a knitter or wet nurse. And they were not allowed to engage and work outside the home if they did that. They were accused and portrayed, you can look at newspapers of the time where women who work outside the home are portrayed as sexually aggressive shrews and whores. Women whose husband decide that they are scolds are muzzled and marched around for everyone to see. And as I said earlier, the man is entitled to all of his wife's wages or his daughter's wages and so this you know this created an environment where instead of there being a struggle of class against class there was a struggle within the working class between men and women. Then eventually between people and themselves. I'm not going to go into all of the details. The ways that women were tortured as witches shows how far women fell.
So according to the standard procedure, they were stripped naked and completely shaved. They were pricked with needles all over their bodies, including their vaginas because they were looking for the mark of the devil. They were often raped. They were investigated as to whether or not they were virgins, which would indicate that they were innocent and if they did not confess to being a witch, then they were subjected to even more awful things. The execution of a which was a public event that all members of the community had to attend. Especially their daughters, who were often whipped in front of their mothers. They burned on the stake. I’m just going to pause here for a moment to remember these women, whose crimes were that they wanted to control their own body’s reproductive power. Was that they were born into a society that abhorred them and denied them even the most basic physical and psychological rights. And I bring this up in a discussion about the workplace and labor, because the work of women and the status of women had been so devalued at this point that this was acceptable to society at that time. We must protect the value of labor to protect the rights of the laborer, their power to make decisions and their freedom.
At this time in France, women were required to register every pregnancy and were sentenced to death if their infants died before baptism, after a concealed delivery, whether or not they were guilty of any wrongdoing. It just shows like how much the purpose of a woman became to reproduce, this is half of the workforce, their sole purpose is to reproduce and to be at the mercy of their male relatives. And that the woman who does not reproduce, must be punished to the furthest extent of the law.
And it’s not even just about reproduction- it is about control of the body and denial of magic. Control of the body which becomes required as capitalism expands in order to keep people productive at all hours and in all seasons. And denial of magic, because magic was too dangerous. It gave people too much power over their own self-determination.
At this time, midwives became agents of the state reporting pregnancies but then at a later time, midwives came under suspicion. So that led to the entrance of the male doctor into the delivery room which really stemmed from the authorities fear of infanticide, like okay if we put a man in here, and He is the doctor and he delivers the baby, then he's going to make sure that this baby doesn't die. At This time the child. The child's life was prioritized over the mother's life which is the opposite of what had happened previously.
And this is important to understand because even today, infant and maternal mortality rates in the united states which has the highest number of hospitalized births in the world are some of the highest in the world. We turn birth into an emergency and it’s not. It’s a natural function of the body. And our process of divorcing women from birth has its roots in this part of history.
Currently mothers make 67% of what all the other workers make in the United States. Like it's an insanely low number. And it is a legacy of how this happened in Europe and was imported and has continued to be perpetuated to this day. And so, when we are deciding about how we're going to take care of the people who work for us, we have to be cognizant of this history. And this is just one part. We're gonna get into the treatment of indigenous people and people of color. It's coming next but just to pause here with the treatment of women and the persecution of women in the infancy of capitalism continues or out the growth of it and the globalization and colonization of the world. The discrimination that women have suffered in the waged workforce has been directly tied in their function as unpaid laborers in the home at this time and forever since.
So this brings us to the rise of mercantilism.
The mercantilist time is when the relationship between population and the accumulation of wealth and becomes a worldwide system of subjugation and the mercantilist class, invented workhouses, hunted down vagabonds, transported criminals to the colonies invested in the slave trade.
They also declared idleness as a social plank. So basically it like we've created a world where it's impossible for people to support themselves. And also, they can't support themselves because they're idle. That's like the beginning of this like mythology. of idleness.
They're sort of process was to drive as much work from people as possible and to expand the population as much as possible.
During mercantilist time, the plantation happened. The plantation is you know, land where there is a master and there are slaves and slaves work in the land for nothing.
And the master then sells the product of the slaves labor and this plantation system figures as a precursor to the factory, which is even used today.
Which creates an international division of labor, keeping low wage workers or at this time enslaved workers, geographically and socially divided.
So at the same time that this is happening to people who have been captured in Africa and transported to the colonies, there is also the subjugation of indigenous peoples people indigenous to the land where that was colonized both in Africa and also in the Americas.
And in the accounts of European people, when they encounter indigenous peoples, there's kind of this general sense of being impressed by generosity by a sense of cooperation, in indifference to status, and being scandalized by a lack of morals. They're like shocked that there's no concept of private property authority.
And that there's, like, you know, like women aren't punished, children aren't punished.
It just goes totally counter to the European society.
And so, in encountering indigenous peoples, one of the first things that the colonizers missionaries did, was to establish man as the master to establish a chief, then to punish and subjugate women, and then to punish and subjugate children. The idea being that without this, then indigenous peoples couldn't be converted to Christianity.
And so this process still stripped all all indigenous peoples and especially women and children of their autonomy.
Married women became men's property, had to force it had to follow husbands into their homes. This is the opposite of how it worked previously, and the authority over children passed to men, instead of staying with women as it was previously.
So layered in with this, we have indentured servitude, which is how the working poor of Europe primarily had access to the colonies in the 17th through 19th centuries
either through indentured servitude or transportation, which is a punishment for convicts, political and religious dissidents.
Just general, you know homeless people and beggars and people that Europeans just didn't want in their land anymore.
And then the beginning, the lot of the indentured servants the the situation for them was not much different from that of African slaves. But that changed very quickly. Especially at the end of the 18th century, when racial boundaries were drawn. Until then, there was this fear of the unity of poor whites and people of color.
Just all poor people in the eyes of the ruling class.
And so some things were done in order to create divisions among these people. During the 1600s laws were passed depriving Africans of previously granted rights like citizenship, the right to bear arms, the right to file in court.
Slavery was made a hereditary condition and slave owners had the right to beat and kill their slaves.
At this time, marriage between blacks and whites was also forbidden. And on the plantation, when there was no longer the importation of slaves.
There was a shift to a breeding policy, which made women more vulnerable to sexual assault.
After the American War of Independence, indentured servitude was eliminated, which created a solely African slave group and this is the time when white becomes a moral attribute and it solidifies this difference among the classes.
At this time in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, there is what's called the age of reason, and in the Age of Reason, there are philosophies on disciplining the body.
So this idea that human beings and their work is the most important, productive resource is well accepted and understood in this time. Where there is not much technology.
And so the question comes up of how do we make humans better workers?
And the answer comes in eradicating any form of behavior that isn't going to create a stronger work and discipline.
It causes workers to submit their activities to somebody else where they have no control over it.
You know, I as a worker, I give over my power to my boss, right? They're external to me. I have no control over what they do, about their company about my job about any of it. So I give over my power in that way.
And the worker does not feel like they are inside of themselves in their work. The worker feels disconnected from themselves in work, by necessity of having to regulate their body and their emotions into what is allowable at work. And so the worker only feels like him or herself when they are outside of their work.
And so now there's this conflict that starts happening within the individual person where opposing elements are in a battle forces of reason and we're called lower instincts of the body.
And in this time, the ultimate purpose of life is acquisition. I want to get as much as I can, you know, from the market I want to have more.
And through this, a person looks at their labor power as their property as their commodity. But when my labor is a commodity, that I am selling, it separates me from my labor. And so my labor is no longer an embodied experience of me. It is a commodity that I'm selling. It's something other than what I am.
And during this time, this disassociation from the body that is intrinsic in work that has continued to this day.
What also happened was the turning of anything that philosophers called irrational, basically anything that wasn't productive.
And disciplining of the body was turned into a crime.
And out of this philosophy out of the changes over these, you know, last few centuries, a new version of femininity comes to pass, where that ideal woman and wife is depicted as passive obedient, thrifty, always busy at work, and chaste.
And this begins at the end of the 17th century after women have been subjected to terrorism for centuries.
And it culminates in the 1950s with the housewife.
And this is how the position of women was redefined in society up to that point.
And so before I end, I just want to
share a few takeaways.
One of them is that poor people, people of color, and women have only recently had access to the same rights that the powerful have had access to for hundreds of years.
This is how powerful people remain in power and how lower classes are unable to access power.
And so as you're kind of mulling over, you know, how you are, you know, participating in economy, how you are employing people How are how you are caring for them, encourage you to think about that.
Another thing is about, you know, power structures that are currently at play that are perpetuating the same processes that has been happening during this period of history that I've been talking about. So one of them is the World Bank, which privatizes land and commercializes agriculture. And when this happens, it doesn't increase the amount of food available to the workers. It only rewards countries for making exports. So in fertile areas of Africa and Asia and Latin America, there is a ton of malnutrition and starvation, just as when the land was enclosed in Europe.
Rising prices ruin small farmers who then have to give up their land to buy food. I mean, don't even get me into like GMO seeds and that farmers buy seeds that will not reproduce, so that they then have to go buy more seeds the next year, instead of just using seeds that would naturally have grown from the plants. It's really diabolical.
Another trend that comes to mind for me is the prisons and especially that prison industrial complex which is just a nother version of a workhouse the incarceration of people who are poor and forcing them to work for very low wages less than $1 an hour.
I think just the last
so why Oh, are there which is now like, why are there women who claim this identity of which?
And I think that there's war in all pre capitalist societies, we can see
in our understanding of the world as animistic as everything, having a soul and being interconnected with all of the other things.
And the reason why there can be a resurgence of animism and witchcraft and taro and all these things is because the mechanization of the body is now so intrinsic to our understanding of
what it is to be human.
That those belief systems in small numbers are those belief systems don't jeopardize the regularity of social behavior
and when it does start to jeopardize the regularity of social behavior is when
we know that things are actually shifting.
Now, the last takeaway that I have is about paying people and
I'm seeing it a lot right now, where
there's like this justification for paying people based on the living wage wherever they live. So a company in California pays let's say $40 an hour for a job for someone who lives in California, but then they pay $20 an hour for that job for someone who lives in Florida maybe in $10 an hour for that job for someone who lives in Mississippi. But then once you get outside of the United States, maybe they pay $2 an hour to someone who's in the Philippines, which is exactly how this system was set. Up.
To decrease the value of labor by separating people from their product.
So how can you not pay people as if they are working for you where your company is?
I pay everyone in my company, as if they lived with me here in Santa Cruz, regardless of where they live, because it's not my responsibility for where they live. They've chosen where they want to live. I've chosen where my company exists. And it just.
It is a system of oppression, which is perpetuated and there's like no question about whether it's right or wrong. It's just assumed to be the way that it has to be in order for our company to be profitable.
But if you're deriving the value of your product by devaluing the labor of the people who work for you, you don't have a viable product.
I could go on, but I will just stop at that.
Now that we have the foundation of how labor was accumulated by capitalism, the expansion of the unpaid part of the day, and the subjugation of workers through the international market, my next solo episode will discuss the changes to agreements about work that started in the late 19th century and have continued until now. We’ll get into a bit of labor law in this next one.