Sir, I am a true labourer. I earn that I eat, get that I wear; owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness; glad of other men’s good, content with my harm; and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck. William Shakespeare, As You Like It III ii 71-75, Corin to Touchstone
The labour we delight in physics pain. William Shakespeare, Macbeth II iii 56
A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. Thomas Jefferson
Without labour nothing prospers. Sophocles
Labour was the first price, the original purchase – money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver but by labour that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. Adam Smith
Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
I never visualised labor as separate men and women of different sorts and kinds ... labor was an abstraction, which seemed to denote an arithmetically calculable mass of human beings, each individual a repetition of the other. Beatrice Webb, My Apprenticeship, 1926
The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. George Orwell, 1984
This business of petty inconvenience and indignity, of being kept waiting about, of having to do everything at other people’s convenience, is inherent in working-class life. A thousand influences constantly press a working man down into a passive role. He does not act, he is acted upon. He feels himself the slave of mysterious authority and has a firm conviction that ‘they’ will never allow him to do this, that, and the other. Once when I was hop-picking I asked the sweated pickers (they earn something under sixpence an hour) why they did not form a union. I was told immediately that ‘they’ would never allow it. Who were ‘they’? I asked. Nobody seemed to know, but evidently ‘they’ were omnipotent. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
A plongeur is a slave, and a wasted slave, doing stupid and largely unnecessary work. He is kept at work, ultimately, because of a vague feeling that he would be dangerous if he had leisure. And educated people, who should be on his side, acquiesce in the process, because they know nothing about him and consequently are afraid of him. George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
All the megacorporations on the planet make their obscene profits off the labour and suffering of others, with complete disregard for the effects on the workers, environment, and future generations. As with the banking sector, they play games with the lives of millions, hysterically reject any kind of government intervention when the profits are rolling in, but are quick to pass the bill for the cleanup and the far-reaching consequences of these avoidable tragedies to the public when things go wrong. We have a straightforward proposal: if they want public money, we want public control. It’s that simple. Michael Hureaux-Perez
The rich run a global system that allows them to accumulate capital and pay the lowest possible price for labour. The freedom that results applies only to them. The many simply have to work harder, in conditions that grow ever more insecure, to enrich the few. Democratic politics, which purports to enrich the many, is actually in the pocket of those bankers, media barons and other moguls who run and own everything. Charles Moore
As the sun shines I will make hay
To keep failure at bay
For there remaineth a pay
For my honest toil each day. Ogwo David Emenike
The majority of any society comprised, Smith knew, not landlords or merchants, but ‘servants, laborers, and workmen of different kinds’, who derived their income from wages. Their welfare was the prime concern of economic policy, as Smith conceived it. ‘No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable,’ he wrote. ‘It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.’ The chief economic concern of the legislator, in Smith’s view, ought to be the purchasing power of wages, since that was the measure of the material well-being of the bulk of the population. Jerry Z Muller, The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought
This is what the bourgeois political economists have done: they have treated value as a fact of nature, not a social construction arising out of a particular mode of production. What Marx is interested in is a revolutionary transformation of society, and that means an overthrow of the capitalist value-form, the construction of an alternative value-structure, an alternative value-system that does not have the specific character of that achieved under capitalism. I cannot overemphasize this point, because the value theory in Marx is frequently interpreted as a universal norm with which we should comply. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people complain that the problem with Marx is that he believes the only valid notion of value derives from labour inputs. It is not that at all; it is a historical social product. The problem, therefore, for socialist, communist, revolutionary, anarchist or whatever, is to find an alternative value-form that will work in terms of the social reproduction of society in a different image. By introducing the concept of fetishism, Marx shows how the naturalized value of classical political economy dictates a norm; we foreclose on revolutionary possibilities if we blindly follow that norm and replicate commodity fetishism. Our task is to question it. David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital
Every historical form of society is in its foundation a form of organization of labour. While every previous form of society was an organization of labour in the interests of a minority, which organized its State apparatus for the oppression of the overwhelming majority of the workers, we are making the first attempt in world history to organize labour in the interests of the labouring majority itself. Leon Trotsky, Terrorism and Communism
As a general rule, man strives to avoid labour. Love for work is not at all an inborn characteristic: it is created by economic pressure and social education. One may even say that man is a fairly lazy animal. It is on this quality, in reality, that is founded to a considerable extent all human progress; because if man did not strive to expend his energy economically, did not seek to receive the largest possible quantity of products in return for a small quantity of energy, there would have been no technical development or social culture. ibid.
Our labour preserves us from three great evils – weariness, vice, and want. Voltaire, Candide
Every job from the heart is, ultimately, of equal value. The nurse injects the syringe; the writer slides the pen; the farmer plows the dirt; the comedian draws the laughter. Monetary income is the perfect deceiver of a man’s true worth. Criss Jami
But every acquisition that is disproportionate to the labour spent on it is dishonest. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
The Lord had given them the day and the Lord had given them the strength. And the day and the strength had been dedicated to labour, and the labour was its reward. Who was the labour for? What would be its fruits? These were irrelevant and idle questions. ibid.
But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. Henry David Thoreau
The laboring man, that tills the fertile soil,
And reaps the harvest fruit, hath not in deed
The gain, but pain; and if for all his toil
He gets the straw, and lord will have the seed. Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, The Laboring Man, 1573
Audience Woman on pedestal: I have three jobs and I feel like I contribute.
George W Bush: You work three jobs?
Audience Woman on pedestal: Three jobs.
George W Bush: Uniquely American isn’t it? You are just fantastic doing that. Get any sleep?
We spend our midday sweat our midnight oil;
We tire the night in thought, the day in toil. Francis Quaries, Emblems, 1635
It’s a fight we knew all too well in Flint, Michigan. For it was here that my uncle and his fellow workers first brought down the mighty corporate interest that dominated their lives. It was the day before New Year’s Eve 1936 and hundreds of men and women took over the GM factories in Flint and occupied them for forty-four days. They were the first union that beat an industrial corporation, and their actions eventually resulted in the creation of a middle class. Michael Moore, Capitalism: A Love Story, 2009