Explore BrainMass

Labor relations: Discussing Paradoxes

Need assistance and insight discussing the following statements. Any help is greatly appreciated.

1.It has been said that "unions are for capitalism for the same reason that fish are for water," Elobrate upon this statement, drawing from the historical record.

2.Explain the following paradox: Until relatively recent years skilled workers who enjoyed comparatively high levels of income and status constituted the main source of union membership.

Solution Preview

Dear Student,
I have also ttached the solution as a word file for easy printing. While I did recall historical elements into both essays (which is what I created to answer each of the particular questions), it is advisable to visit or read the refences used in this solution. In particular for Q2, it is to your advantage to visit the resource articles listed. Thank you for using Brainmass!

OTA 105878

Concepts in Labor Relations

1. It has been said that "unions are for capitalism for the same reason that fish are for water," Elaborate upon this statement, drawing from the historical record.

Capitalism & Labour Unions: like fish in Water

To fully elaborate on the statement above, we need to define the two main concepts being attributed to - Capitalism and Labour Unions. The idea that labour unions are the most natural inhabitants of a capitalist economic system is not far off. While the capitalist economy is built to enhance the lives of those whose spirit of entrepreneurship allow for businesses and such economic structure to come to be, it is the labourers and the manner that they are organized that drive the manufacture of goods and the continuance of industry. Without labour, there will be no products, services and structures to allow capitalism to thrive. First off, let us define the concepts -

Capitalism "applies to a diversity of phenomenon" and "body of social practices easily applied across geographical and historical distances" that had its roots in mercantilism and trade. originating in the Far East (Chinese trade), Rome and the Middle east, mercantilism was essentially the exchange of goods, of buying and selling products and services between individuals and groups for the purpose of making a profit and gaining economic advantage. It is mercantilism that drove the Age of Exploration and Discovery when the European Kingdoms came to search for better passages to India and the Spice Islands for a better way of sourcing goods from these locations, goods that were in high demand in Europe. Economic Historian Richard Hooker defines Capitalism as a social practice to include the following (1996):

? The accumulation of the means of production (materials, land, tools) as property into a few hands; this accumulated property is called "capital" and the property-owners of these means of production are called "capitalists."
? Productive labor?the human work necessary to produce goods and distribute them?takes the form of wage labor. That is, humans work for wages rather than for product. One of the aspects of wage labor is that the laborer tends not to be invested in the product. Labor also becomes "efficient," that is, it becomes defined by its "productivity"; capitalism increases individual productivity through "the division of labor," which divides productive labor into its smallest components. The result of the division of labor is to lower the value (in terms of skill and wages) of the individual worker; this would create immense social problems in Europe and America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
? The means of production and labor is manipulated by the capitalist using rational calculation in order to realize a profit. So that capitalism as an economic activity is fundamentally teleological.

Incidentally, Hooker also purports that capitalism is not just a social practice, for it to become a way of life it is also seen as a way of viewing reality, a perspective. For him (1996) -

"Capitalism as a way of thinking is fundamentally individualistic, that is, that the individual is the center of capitalist a way of thinking is fundamentally based on the Enlightenment idea of progress; the large-scale social goal of unregulated capitalism is to produce wealth, that is, to make the national economy ...