These days, providing employees with appropriate working conditions presents a matter of extreme significance. Each person is aware of labor rights, which he or she may profess to, and they are protected by law. However, the companies, which exploit people and receive enormous profits due to cheap labor, poor workplace environment, and inappropriate living standards, still exist. Surprisingly, it is a common sight when such businesses are prosperous and well-known worldwide and claims their honesty and dignity. Therefore, preventing such a way of earning money by the oppression of other people of modest means presents a pressing concern, which should be drawn attention urgently. This way, the purpose of the paper is to analyze two videos on this topic, supply a brief description, explain how these cases are connected to Marx’s theory, and propose some reason for willingness to work in sweatshops.
A Description of Videos
To get acquainted with this topic thoroughly, two videos devoted to poor working conditions were observed. The first one is Nike Sweatshops: Behind the Swoosh, in which the story of a young man who has found out about the dreadful workplace environment at Nike’s sweatshops is narrated. All the official representatives he attempted to contact refused to give him additional information on this concern, so he and his friend decided to become employees at such an enterprise in Malaysia. They were terrified of the lifestyle they and other workers had to lead, as they did not have even simple facilities. All the employees lived in a concrete room without any furniture and did not have access to running water (TeamSweat 2011). In addition, the wages for the job were extremely low, and it was not sufficient for sticking to decent living standards. Young people were confused by such poor working and living conditions and the indifference of the company towards the problem, so they encouraged others to participate in solving this issue.
The second video is titled Beware Fellow Plutocrats the Pitchforks are Coming and present Nick Hanauer, stimulating companies’ headmasters to increase the salary for their workers. Being a successful and wealthy businessman, he introduces a theory of new capitalism and explains that the middle class appears to be the formula for the prosperous economics of the entire country. The speaker disagrees with a widespread opinion on boosting the economy by plutocrats and argues that investments in the middle class would have a beneficial influence on the living standards (TED 2014). Nick Hanauer also motivates business people like him to improve the working conditions for employees and increase their salaries for achieving the intentions mentioned above.
Sweatshops and The Need in Them
Although sweatshops do not supply employees with respect, sufficient wages, appropriate living standards, career progression, and other perspectives, people, who are determined to occupy these vacancies, exist. Nickolas Kristof states that such an activity may be “a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty, the kind of gauzy if probably unrealistic ambition that parents everywhere often have for their children” (Kristof 2009). He described mothers who are willing their children to receive a post at such companies, and the primary reason for it is the lack of choice (Kristof 2009). In poor countries, for instance, Cambodia or Malaysia, people do not have opportunities to choose the job they are eager to stick to, as they do have not enough vacancies. Therefore, an enterprise offering millions of jobs becomes a vital solution in these areas. This way, sweatshops become a dream for them and a way of improving their current living conditions.
The closure of factories would have horrible consequences in poor countries, even if they provide living wages for the local population. Consequently, Nickolas Kristof claims that campaigns against sweatshops cannot become an efficient solution for this hot-button issue. Instead, he proposes strengthening the program “to encourage African imports, called AGOA, and nudge Europe to match it” (Kristof 2009). This way, labor rights could be protected, and people in need would be able to receive a well-paid job at the same time.
Connection to Marx’s Theories
Being written in the 19th century, the theories of Karl Marx appear to be a popular subject for multiple discussions even today. One of the primary ideas of his theories regards capitalism, and the philosopher confidently predicted its self-destruction. Karl Marx outlined particular problems caused by capitalism, which are a thoughtless individual determination to financial prosperity, the increase of inequality, marginalization of groups of the population, ecological decline, and climate change. According to the philosopher, the capitalist system is condemned to failure in the final, as it is characterized by macroeconomic disbalances, and all the possible market solution results in the lack of consumer demand. Moreover, he highlighted that human resources and skills are used exploitatively. He was convinced that this system implies internal conflicts that prevent it from completing its principal aim, which is supplying continuous prosperity and wealthy living. Therefore, if there were a chance to observe the videos mentioned above via such a theoretical lens, the current issues would appear to be predictable and obvious.
However, there are some points, which can be connected to Marx’s opinion. It is evident that, in general, the philosopher of the 19th century, a young man in the first video and Nick Hanauer in the second video are determined to address similar concerns. All of them raise the problem of financial inequality and elaborate on the methods of its minimization, as well as the exploitation of human resources. The main difference between them is that Karl Marx sees the solution in communism, and the cotemporaries propose less radical options, which address people’s consciousness and simply add some improvements to the current system. All the speakers’ perspective is different, which can be easily explained by the fact that they live in different eras, which involve opposite values. Young people in the videos are willing to protect labor rights, supply each citizen with an opportunity to receive an appropriate job and adequate wages, while Karl Marx is determined to change the entire system.
Although all human rights are protected worldwide, some violations still exist, including underestimating labor rights. It presents a pressing concern nowadays, as giant companies prosper by the weight of cheap labor, other people’s suffering, overfatigue, lack of opportunities, and poor living standards. These are the issues that the philosopher of the 19th century, Karl Marx, predicted to happen within the capitalist system. By contrast with the radical opinion of Marx, which implies transition to communism, contemporaries advance more democratic solutions and appeal to the consciousness of the population. This way, there is a tendency to search humanist options and propose improvements within the current system.
Kristof, Nickolas. 2009. “Where Sweatshops Are a Dream”, The New York Times.
TeamSweat. 2011. Nike sweatshops: Behind the swoosh. Youtube. 2020. Web.
TED. 2014. Beware fellow plutocrats the pitchforks are coming. Youtube. Web.