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Why “Free” Wage Labor?

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Chapter Summary

Human labor power can be transformed into a commodity in different ways. Two of the most important forms are chattel slavery and wage labor. The first documented indications of wage labor are provided by historians in the ancient period. From their work, it can be established that there were, in fact, at least four basic variants: casual labor, artisanal labor, military service and artisans' apprenticeships. It these four variants are considered together, one common characteristic stands out: free wage labor was engaged especially where the activities were of a temporary nature: temporary either in the sense of being carried out during part of the year only, or during a part of the worker's life (in the case of apprentices). For a long time, free wage labor occurred only sporadically. But in at least one area of the world it became important already before the rise of capitalism.

Keywords: apprenticeships; artisanal labor; capitalism; casual labor; free wage labor; military service; slavery; wage labor



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