Disablement, Oppression, and Political Economy

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1869 ... August 7, 2019
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Disablement, Oppression, and Political Economy

Marta Russell

It is often claimed that disabled persons are invisible, disregarded by mainstream society, and irrelevant to the workings of society. This analysis has attempted to explain that the "unemployables" have been deliberately shut out of the labor force due to a capitalist economy that so far has dictated their exclusion by measure of economic calculations that favor the business class. It further posits that disabled persons are further oppressed in capitalist societies by having been purposely shifted onto social welfare or segregated into institutions for similar reasons -- to keep workers who could not be profitably employed out of the mainstream workforce but also to exert social control over the entire labor supply.

Karl Marx explains that capitalism is a system of "forced labor -- no matter how much it may seem to result from free contractual agreement." It is coercion because capitalists own the means of production and laborers do not. Without ownership of factories and other means of production, workers lack their own access to... the means of making a livelihood. By this very fact, workers are compelled to sell their labor to capitalists for a wage because the alternative is homelessness or starvation or both. Deborah Stone in The Disabled State convincingly argues that in order to restructure the workforce for the demands of early capitalist production, it was first necessary to eradicate all viable alternatives to wage labor for the mass population.

Labor is a resource to be manipulated like capital and land. Stone writes, "The disability concept was essential to the development of an exploitable workforce in early capitalism and remains indispensable as an instrument of the state in controlling labor supply."

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