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Summary of the Article “On the American Working Class”

The article On the American Working Class were published more than a few weeks after Sartre returned home in May running from June 6 to June 30 in 1945. Sartre conducted research on topics that affected the American working class across different cities such as New York and San Francisco. Sartre discussed Americanization, how the workers financed their hospital bills, the minimum wages, open societies, American equality, the fear of Marxism, the mechanization of labor and management against unions among others.

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Sartre narrates an encounter between a caretaker and a Bishop. The author asserts that the American Factory Workers have a sadness that is composed of fatigue and boredom that weighs on them. As a result, both the laborers and those who work in small shops do not have any idea that they are selling their labor but instead see it like performing a service. Hence these workers work without ulterior motives and are proud of their high pay. Further, the author states that a third of all United States workers are member of two big unions, that is, the AFL with a membership of 5,800,000 and the CIO with 5,200,000 workers (Aronson & Sartre, 2000). Still, an American worker lives in fear of being unemployed one day.

Sartre also describes French workers. The author states that French works perceive all horizons as closed from the beginning and learns that their fate is linked with the working class right from when they are children. In particular, Sartre mentions that a sociologist who had tried to describe the consumer behavior of French workers pointed out that the working class spend only a small part of their budget in clothes and housing and the largest share on food.

According to Karl Marx, the variance between the required labor time and the aggregate labor time the employees spend on production is their surplus labor. The value of their extra labor is the surplus labor that goes to the capitalist for the reason that they own the means of production. As a result, Karl Marx asserts that the capitalists make their employees an irresistible offer, after which the only condition left for them is to work and produce value surplus making profits for the capitalist, or they will end up starving. As a consequence, the alienation of labor is created. Aronson and Sartre (2000) report that they ran into a caregiver at the gym. When the bishop greeted him, the caretaker, without turning back, tossed back at him. This is what Karl refers to as workers being alienated from social relationships, that is, from other workers and their bosses who take advantage of them.

In addition, Karl explains how the employees get alienated from the products of their labor. The reason for this is because the products belong to the capitalist who owns the means of production. As a result, the more the workers produce, the less they retain. Aronson and Sartre (2000) explain that when Kaiser was confronted with the question of health and productivity, Kaiser had to pay for the health of his enormous crowd of employees in order to obtain maxim productivity. Also, Karl indicates that employees get alienated from the labor process because labor is forced on them as a means of survival. Labor belongs to the capitalist and is packaged in a manner that the workers cannot refuse.

References

Aronson, R., & Sartre, J.-P. (2000). Sartre on the American Working Class Seven Articles in “Combat”, 1945. Sartre Studies International, 6(1), 1–22.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Summary of the Article “On the American Working Class”." April 2, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/summary-of-the-article-on-the-american-working-class/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Summary of the Article “On the American Working Class”'. 2 April.

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