W is for Wage Slavery
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: Read-outs

A series of 26 posts featuring excerpts from Joshua Glenn’s The Idler’s Glossary (Biblioasis, 2008) and The Wage Slave’s Glossary (Biblioasis, 2011). Both books were coauthored by Mark Kingwell, who contributed entertaining philosophical-critical essays on the subjects of idling and wage slavery; and both were wittily illustrated and designed by the cartoonist Seth.

WAGE SLAVERY

Though similarities between chattel slavery and wage labor had already been noted by everyone from Cicero to Thomas Jefferson, 19th-c. textile workers in Lowell, Mass., were the first to use the phrase wage slavery. The Lowell Mill Girls, as they were known, condemned the “degradation and subordination” of the emerging industrial system; during their 1836 strike, one of their songs went: “Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as I / Should be sent to the factory to pine away and die? / Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave…” Their coinage called attention to the similarities between buying and renting a person; they denounced a social order in which you’re encouraged to believe that you’re free to direct your own life, when, in fact, you are dependent on income derived from wage labor.

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ALSO: Alienation | Big Rock Candy Mountains | Corporation | Dawdle | Employee of the Month | Flazy | Greybearding | Hobo | Inemuri | Jack of All Trades | Knock Off Work | Lazy | Micawberish | Nobbing It | Onboarding | Pink Slip | Quitter | Robot | Stakhanovite | Time and Motion Study | Unemployment | Volupté | Xerox Subsidy | Yakuza | Zero Drag

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Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based semiotic culture and brand analyst. He is editor/publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age science fiction imprint HILOBOOKS. In addition, Josh is co-author of several books, including (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) the family activities guides UNBORED, UNBORED GAMES, and the forthcoming UNBORED ADVENTURE. In the ’00s, Josh was an editor and columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE's IDEAS section; in the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT.