It is very easy to dismiss a perspective if one does not have the experience of backing one’s ideas with. So it was one such day when I was told that I was naïve to think that tea owners are exploitative since they are themselves caught up in a competitive market and organised, manipulative trade unions; so much so that it really tests your mettle if you are a tea owner. The simplest thought that struck me was how the most basic and what one would think as the right way to be was being spoken about as something inhibiting. For, is not a fair negotiation process including the owner and the workers, the best way for an industry to flourish? Anyway, this was the idea that was being stated- You cannot have an ideal world in business. One needs to earn profit; that is the aim; if you have to work for welfare of the people, you might as well join an NGO. Honestly, I would have loved to bang the speaker’s head and put some sense into him, but well one is constrained by the social ties we have and words, being the most civilized way to respond to the most offensive, derogatory and insane remarks, I resorted to them. I asked a single question, to which there was no answer and the question was: Is exploitation or unfair division of fruits of labour always necessary to earn profits? Are not profits based on efficient use of resources? Perhaps, we need to resort to Max Weber’s understanding of economic action, where he identifies two distinct characteristics of the same:
- An economic action is simply the efficient use and management of resources to gain monetary benefits;
- It is purely economic in so much so it does not involve any act of violence since the aim of an economic action is to gain economic gains and not anything else; so where there is exploitation for economic gains the aim is to gain domination and control over somebody or some group; although interests do conflate and domination can be practised to gain and maintain economic interests. But purely economic action is, by definition, non-violent.
Taking cue from Weber, we can at least agree on one thing that the pursuit of industrialists is the not just economic gains but also domination, if they argue that exploitation is the only or one of the means to achieve monetary gains. Consequently, it is clear that exploitation of workers, as was argued in the conversation before, is not a structural necessity for gaining profit.
Contemporary happening corroborate this idea with Google being rated as the best working place in the world in 2015 by Glassdoor, a US based website that has rated companies on the basis of insider ratings and information from employees about the companies they work for. It is the company’s pro-employee policies including paternity and adoptive parent leave, death benefits, provisions for donating $50 for every five hours an employee volunteers and similar employee-friendly provisions and perks that have been cited as reasons for rating Google as the best working place in 2015 by its employees. Google, thus, provides an example of how an inclusive policy can help companies to grow and lead in today’s competitive markets. So now would you believe that exploitation is a necessity for gaining profits? Think again or may be “Google” it.
Image Source: [https://www.flickr.com/photos/cartelcommunications/5094732966]