This is a paper I wrote for the Pathway class I am in (a class that’s supposed to supplement my other classes basically) and I got an A on it. I figured I’d use this as my first paper to post on here because it’s in depth, heavily cited and makes all the points I want to make. All feedback is welcome.
Power Analysis Paper #1
The first face of power is virtually non-existent in a slaughter house in Tar Heel, North Carolina as indicated in the report by Charlie LeDuff called At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die. There workers slave for little over $9 an hour for cutting, skinning and decapitating animals, getting blood over their work clothes with a low paycheck and constant animosity in the work place. The first face of power is only shown in the beginning and end of a worker’s bargaining for their job and even then the boss’s bargaining power is greater especially in the case of the Mexicans because as reported, “The Mexicans never push back. They cannot. Some have legitimate work papers, but more like Mercedes Fernandez do not. […] The Mexicans are so frightened about being signaled out that they do not even tell one another their real names.” (LeDuff, 6) With this kind of disparity of power it’s easy to why any sort of first face of power, one that is clearly seen and open for discussion about. In fact nothing can really be open for discussion to begin with when, “…[T]he factory cuts people off from one another. If it’s not the language barrier, it’s the noise – the hammering of compressors, the screeching of pulleys, the grinding of the lines. You can hardly make your voice heard.” (LeDuff, 5) There’s no open discussion or debate and while there are choices made people wouldn’t otherwise make it’s all in favor of the bosses and managers of the slaughter house. The workers are forced to make choices they want and even the thought of rebelling in some way will probably never occur to them or if it does it’ll never be agreed to. No communication, no open discussion, no actual decisions being made except when it suits the higher ups means there’s no first face of power.
But what about the second face of power? Is there any sign of this in the slaughter house? In fact there is an there is an excess of the second face of power because the second face of power can be felt through just coming into the factory to begin with at a certain time, “It must be 1 o’clock. That’s when the white man usually comes out of his glass office and stands on the scaffolding above the factory floor. He stood with his palms on the rails, his elbows out. He looked like a tower guard up there or a border patrol agent. He stood with his head cocked.” (LeDuff, 1) And it doesn’t stop there because the second face of power is also all about limiting the scope of the individual under such power and using fear and intimidation to make them stay there and not question it. This is also done and quite easily by the managers to the workers,
“…[T]he boss saw something he didn’t like. He climbed down and approached the picnic from behind. The leaned into the ear of a broad-shouldered black man. He had been riding him all day, and the day before. The boss bawled at out good this time, but no one heard what was said. The roar of the machinery was too ferocious for that. Still, everyone knew what was expected. They worked harder.” (LeDuff, 1)
The workers are scared. They not only are being intimidated and in fear they are living in fear and under constant intimidation from the higher ups. This goes for blacks and Mexicans and Native Americans and even convicts in particular even though they’re not minorities in the factory. In fact they are the majority part of the work force by a long shot and there’s a reason for this. The reason being of course that all of these people statistically have a lesser chance of getting a good job and therefore will settle for the job of cutting animals and getting blood and germs and whatever else all over them for barely over the minimum wage. But the second face of power does not explain everything; it only explains partly why the workers stay in such horrible conditions in some cases it does not explain any farther than the fear and intimidation.
This is where the third phase of power comes into play. We can now see that people are brainwashed into thinking that these conditions are actually good ones and not only that but appropriate ones for them and that there is no other place for them. There is a serious lack of any conflict and terms, myths and words are all jumbled up to mold the consciousness of the workers. This makes them not even see a problem or if they see problems at all it’s either the ones those in power want them to see or it’s ones that don’t matter anyways. The best example of this is the race problem in the slaughterhouse and how there is a huge division between the workers, allowing no real type of solidarity to be among them,
“There are English and Spanish lines at the Social Security office and in the waiting rooms of the county health clinics. This means different groups don’t really understand one another and tend to be suspicious of what they know.” (LeDuff, 2).
And even when people work together and are different races it is considered “odd” or out of place, for example when Mercedes tried to work with and help Billy Harwood with his job. But when she talked about blacks she regarded them as lazy and not willing to work clearly showing that the conflict between majority minorities goes both ways. And the brainwashing comes in through this conflict being there in the first place because the problem isn’t “the dirty Mexicans” or the “lazy blacks” it’s the problem of management and the system but none of the workers really know it when they’re under this strong of a third face of power. This sort of power not only makes people more able to go to work but makes them convinced that they’ll never be better in life and either resign to it or try something else in desperation, either way the system workers in so far as the managers are concerned. After all even though there’s nearly a 100 percent turnover rate each year and, “Five thousands quit and five thousand are hired…” (LeDuff, 2) So there’s no shortage of desperate workers, the company just has to find them first and convince them their not the problem.
But even the third face of power can only take us so far. The willing obedience of the workers to just keep slaving away at cutting open animals seems almost impossible for justone person to control on their own. Finally the fourth and final face of power is revealed and this is where the true power of the system comes from, it comes from the system itself. The way people are organized through race and class through language barriers, through the loud machinery and through the low checks there must be something else at play and there is. It is already been determined that the workers are constantly watched by the white man on the scaffold and if that wasn’t enough the 1984esque reality that workers will even report on each other if it means the manager will reward said worker for their obedience and “dedication to their job”. By now the system itself is what the workers submit to; if one manager replaced another it wouldn’t matter because the workers would still follow the same rules and laws as before and be just as obedient. By this time all individual are irrelevant, even the managers are irrelevant in this face of power because the workers have submitted themselves to something that they think is greater than they are as individuals. The managers and bosses are only needed as figureheads for the system and are only necessary to keep the illusion that there is some sort of free interaction in the system when in reality there is none. In Erich Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation the same thing happens not only in that slaughterhouse but in others as well where bosses just use the system to their advantage,
“The job also brings enormous power. Each supervisor is like a little dictator in his or her section of the plant, largely free to boss, fire, berate or reassign workers.” (Schlosser, 176)
And so not only in North Carolina is this a problem but it seems to be a systematic one of slaughterhouses and factory systems set up in a similar fashion. The question remains that even though problems have been identified is there a solution to all of this?
The fourth face of power is the most important face in any system because it relies on the system being self-reliable regardless of the figureheads at the front of the organization. IF the fourth phase of power is in full effect like it is in the slaughterhouses that both Schlosser and LeDuff talk about then the managers and bosses can be indiscriminate in their power, they don’t have to worry about anyone really resisting them. While the second and third faces are important transitions to the fourth it’s the fourth face that should be the goal of any leader that truly wants to control people. Conversely if the fourth face of power is not in effect then the leaders of the system are stuck in the non-preferable spot of having to directly deal with the people under their control and while this is fairly simple under the second face of power and even more so under the third it’s still something the leaders would like to leave to the system. If left to the system this means the leaders are only necessary to give direct contact when they feel like it not when it may be actually necessary or in the interest of those under them. If this is the case they can work the people under them harder, pay them less and do the opposite for themselves, this fourth face of power is the ultimate win-win for these managers and bosses.
So what can be done to break up this four face of power and what is the goal from there? The goal first off should always be autonomy and equality in authority in the work place as well as an open environment in which workers can openly show their solidarity with one another. And what it should not be is a prison cell for persecuted minorities and exploited races and people which is the case for the people in Tar Heel, North Carolina’s slaughterhouse and elsewhere. But what can be done? Unions seem like a good start but how could they be developed? McDonald’s and other corporations will even shut down and just rehire new workers to insure unions don’t form so how could a union be successfully formed? Such organizations like the Industrial Workers of the World had some success in the early 20th century as collaboration among anti-state socialists and anarchists against enslavement in the work place through free speech fights, labor rallies, and showing solidarity to any and all workers, regardless of race, religion or ideology. Such mutual aid and solidarity is not only necessary but vital to the success to any good union. And if such a union can collaborate with other ones without using the state (for the state is the apparatus propping up these exploitative corporations to begin with and to also use it would seem ridiculous).
Another thing is to especially appeal to those outside the workforce, those who are already unemployed or even those underemployed like those in the slaughterhouses and so on that they need to get out of there and use their skills elsewhere. This puts the pressure on both the bosses and the state to give better working conditions and is done not through an appeal to bosses or the state but done through solidarity in the labor community. The media must not be relied on however for far too often the media will spin a labor struggle against the common man or worker as a sort of “anarchy” and trying to overthrow the system of current working conditions in order to cause disorder. The aim and the goal are simply not thus and so alternative organization to the media must be used to get the word out, community owned newspapers as well as local newspapers and smaller ones are good for getting the word out. Word of mouth and social networking is another powerful tool the working class should take advantage of if they are to receive better working conditions. This may seem like many different methods to one goal but really they fall under one common method and one common goal, that being one of showing solidarity through networking towards equality in authority, more solidarity and more autonomy. This goal is long ways away from being achieved but through education and peaceful direct action it can become clearer as times goes on.