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Workers Before Capitalism

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Chapter Summary

Dio of Prusa, who was strongly influenced by Stoic ideas, was making a different and more basic point, or rather two points, first that wage-labour was widespread in the Roman economy (the reference to thousands selling themselves), and second that wage-contracts entailed a form of servitude, that wage-labour was a kind of slavery, undermining the distinction between slaves and free persons, which is in fact the central theme of these discourses. Paid labour was widespread in construction, mining, agriculture and domestic service, and presumably also in the numerous industrial workshops that manufactured a very wide range of goods for consumption. The expansion of wage-employment in the late antique period led to a new kind of confidence among workers. The more fundamental reason for simply ignoring the existence of workers before capitalism is the strength of primitivism in the Marxist tradition.

Keywords: capitalism; Dio of Prusa; Marxist tradition; wage-employment; wage-labour



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