Capitalism Enables Sexual Harassment


29-11-2011Let me take you on a little thought experiment, courtesy of Prof. Richard D. Wolff, lately of his weekly podcast, “Economic Update.” Dr. Wolff has opened my eyes on many things about economics and always makes relevant to me “the dismal science” (so calumniated by Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle). This past week the professor was topical, giving an economist’s take on the recent tsunami of sexual harassment claims in the media, especially those claims made against men in the business world.

In brief, Prof. Wolff claims, if a business enterprise is set up wherein a few people (mostly male) have the power, while the many people (especially female) are desperate for work (take our top-down, hierarchical, capitalist system, for example) one may be disheartened but not surprised that some men use their power over hiring, advancement and firing to extort “sexual favors” from female workers. And some male ones.

But just suppose, for the purposes of this little thought experiment, that the business enterprise is set up democratically, so that the “bosses” and the “employees” are one and the same. That is, what if the business were run as a worker-owned co-op? The workers would be the owners of the enterprise, so they would make the decisions, democratically, over what to produce, where to produce it, how to produce it and, most important, what to do with the profit.

Under a democratic, co-op system like this, there would not typically be such a disparity of power, and therefore, so Prof. Wolff avers, almost no sexual harassment. Without the few having power over the many, how could there be? It seems that, of the many flaws of capitalism, sexual harassment is one of the worst, and one of the most inevitable.

And, if you think this kind of democratic business arrangement is a novelty, look up Mondragón Cooperative Corporation. Democratic Socialism, anybody?

Posted in Rant

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John Mill

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