When I say I think we should abolish bosses, the response I get is mostly blank stares, followed by a rant about how I am mistaken and just a naive idealist. Those that defend the boss will often have canned responses: “bosses worked hard to get where they are,” “bosses are essential and perform a necessary duty for business,” “we need leaders and we need followers” or ” worker ownership and a democratic economy sound nice, but require theft of the bosses property to be instituted”. There are more responses, but let me take the few I have outlined first.
For this post when I talk about bosses, I am referring to owners of businesses and those that are given the legitimacy by business and law to command and control workers.
“Bosses worked hard to get where they are!”
This is most likely true, I think that there are very few instances where people in the position of boss don’t put in a tremendous amount of effort to build and maintain a successful business. But likewise, migrant farm workers, union bricklayers, Chinese peasants and many other types of laboring people have all worked extremely hard to receive a pittance in comparison to most bosses. Hard work doesn’t seem like a legitimate enough license in our current economy to garner a decent living.
But let’s further break down the hard work that bosses engage in. Now a boss may have started his life as a mere worker employed under some other boss (though this is less the case these days, but it is important to realize that there are still boss-worker hybrids with small contract labor schemes). Most often today, for the large corporations, there are many distinct bosses trained in the business departments of University’s and ideologically melded by neoliberal economics. But, back to the point. Over time, the boss was able (through perseverance and hard work), maneuver into a position of authority where they employ others and use the employee’s physical and mental faculties to make money. After all the bosses’ have the machinery, the buildings and other materials necessary for producing goods (these are all products of labor, most likely not that of the bosses’). The boss’s work no longer creates a value for people (unless they are the boss-worker hybrid), but rather organizes other people to engage in labor and with then extracts profit from the value workers create.
“But bosses are essential and perform a necessary duty for business, that should be compensated!”
Often times the role of boss is infused with other tasks beyond merely taking the product of other people’s work. The useful things the boss does is organize the labor process and maintain the business. But why should the boss be designated this task? Society is dominated by one form of economic organization- business with bosses. I didn’t have a say in this. The boss holds no legitimacy for the role in my estimation. The useful role the boss engages in could easily be taken over by the workers. If it was necessary to have one person devoted to the role of maintaining aspects of business or organizing production, well, the workers could easily elect a delegate mandated to fulfill this task. We spend most of our time under the authority of business and we should at the very least have a democratic say in how things are run.
“We Need Leaders and We Need Followers!”
This is such a strange idea to me. Sure, we should split up tasks to be more efficient. However, this division of labor and this division into different roles should be done in the most legitimate way. Liberal social contract doctrine assumes that people are okay with how things are and that the limited channels of voicing concern are legitimate. I disagree completely. So many points of authority in society are taken for granted and given to people that were mostly lucky, winning the birth lottery. The economy is one of the least democratic arenas. Sure, we can have leaders, but we should not have tyrants, the leaders should garner legitimacy by the masses of workers.
“You give the boss legitimacy by working for them if you don’t like them work for someone else!”
But do you not see the major contradiction of that statement. It assumes that there is always an option to move from one boss to the next, which is often not the case. Secondly, it assumes that this is a sufficient and desirable option. I don’t decry the individual boss. I decry the social role of boss. I decry the dominant relationship of boss over worker. Shifting from tyrannical boss to tyrannical boss doesn’t change this reality, it maintains it.
“Worker ownership and democratic economy sound nice, but require theft of the bosses property to be instituted”.
As I outlined above, there is a distinction between the hard work of the worker and the hard work of the boss. The hard work of the worker is using their mental and physical skills to create a product or perform a service, satisfying a human need and/or desire. On the flipside, the hard work of the boss (in the capacity as boss) is about employing and organizing workers to create products and services, it is to take the product, sell it for a profit and use that money to enrich themselves, while continuing the process. The job of the boss is to maintain legal, systemic and professionalized theft of workers. The machinery, the buildings, and the money that the boss owns and uses for business are one hundred percent the result of the workers past labor.
In summation: Let’s cut out the middleman and get rid of the boss. Let us workers decide our lives and our conditions of work. Lastly, let’s have wealth end up where it belongs, in the hands of us workers.