Why bosses are bad for our health
THANKS FOR the article by Todd Chretien, "Rekindling the human spirit," which addressed, among other things, Marx's writings on the alienated (and alienating) nature of labor under capitalism.
The same day I read this article on SocialistWorker.org, I stumbled upon another article on a recent study by Harvard University which also touches upon this phenomenon, but from a different angle.
Titled "Managing just fine," the study looked at anxiety and stress levels among various strata within the workplace and found--surprise, surprise--that contrary to "the commonly held image of the stressed-out boss...leaders actually have lower stress levels than lower-ranking individuals, likely because they have greater control over their office lives."
First of all, I feel the need to comment upon the irony of an elite, well-funded university coming out with a "startling" revelation concerning that which most of us already knew: that bosses are less stressed than workers. I imagine this can only be "startling" to those who have never worked for a boss before.
While this study simply compares the relative stress levels of workers and bosses, it doesn't talk about the fact that these two things might be related; that workers experience high levels of stress and anxiety precisely because they have someone always standing over them who has near-total control over the conditions and pace of their work, not to mention their very continued employment.
Moreover, all of this anxiety contributes to much higher rates of stress-related illness and death among workers, as compared to their better-off superiors.
What is this really but one more reason to replace capitalist with socialist relations of work and production, in which workers get to democratically control their own collective labor process, rather than have it dictated to them from on high by the taskmasters of the ruling elite? Capitalism has abolished feudal relations within broader society, yet each factory or workplace under capitalism retains a character akin to a private fiefdom, in which the "lord of the manner" holds virtually unchecked sway over his/her subjects--i.e., the modern proletariat.
This is also why, short of the revolutionary transformation of society, labor unions are so important to the lives of working people under capitalism. They really are the primary tool that workers have to overcome this one-sided despotism within the workplace, and, speaking from personal experience, working in a unionized versus a non-unionized workplace makes a world of difference in terms of the everyday stress that one experiences.
If for no other reason, this is simply because you know that where there's a union, you have recourse to even a small degree of control as against the bosses' otherwise unchecked tyranny.
Keith Brody, Boston