Yesterday, I sat down for an interview with Robert Stephens II of Orchestrated Pulse for an interview on how unemployment fits into the capitalist system. We talked about what unemployment is, and why the unemployed are necessary for the power of the boss over workers. Needless to say, I threw some Kalecki into the mix and somehow managed to work in a shout-out to Ed Baptist's new book.
R: What is unemployment?
Mike: Everyone, workers and business owners, needs employment, but for different reasons. The workers need consistent employment so that they can buy the things they need to survive. Business owners need employment because it is ultimately human effort that creates the things that they sell for a profit.
Thus, we can take two perspectives on employment. First, it can be for the purpose of determining how much work is needed for bosses to maximize their output. Second, it can be for the purpose of determining how much work is needed for workers to maintain a given standard of living. Whichever version we choose, unemployment becomes the amount of labor that we believe society isn’t producing.
To speak of unemployment, we need a very specific type of economic system. It has only been within the last 400-600 years that “employment” has become a necessity as an end in itself.