Factotum in the Eyes of Braverman Essay

Factotum in the Eyes of Braverman Essay

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In Harry Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the 20th Century (1974), he discusses the controversial theme of labor and labor power. He also analyzes the degradation of work, which is also shown in Charles Bukowski’s proletarian novel Factotum (1975). Along with these concepts, Braverman develops the boss/worker antagonism, which directly relates to Bukowski’s representation of the compilation of such degrading jobs.
Braverman’s most prominent point is the notion of alienated labor in which the boss has complete control over the workers for the best outcome. We see boss/worker antagonism in these situations. This aspect is shown in Factotum in every job Chinaski had. For example, when he was chipping huge blocks of ice with a hammer, his boss asked him to be the driver so he can get the most out of him. Although, Chinaski listens to all his boss’s orders, he somehow manages to do something wrong; for this reason, he always ends up getting fired. He does as little work as possible. He doesn’t work to the best of his abilities. He doesn’t do the job completely and with full interest, which is why he can never stick to one job. When he realizes he is in desperate need of money, he decides to become serious about finding another job. For example, when his parent’s forced him to pay for his room, board, and laundry, he was obligated to work because he was broke.
In Factotum, the subjective state of the worker is explicit through Chinaski’s everyday activities. He leads a very unconventional lifestyle. He has no aim in life. The only thing that motivates him to work is when he has absolutely nowhere to stay or mainly when he can’t afford a drink. Nothing really upsets him or makes him happy. His addic...


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...them “all afternoon and half the next morning to nail the racks back up” (138). After all, he was the boss and they had no choice but to obey his commands. This relates to alienated labor where the boss is in complete control over the workplace and extracts the most work possible out of the workers. This scenario supports absolute exploitation because, the worker had to work for long, strenuous hours with poor working conditions. The boss demands hard work for a decent profit and eventually thrives. Not only does this scenario represent absolute exploitation but also, how it is a degrading job. In this example, we clearly see the boss/worker antagonistic relationship.
To conclude, Braverman and Bukowski share similar beliefs regarding capitalism. Braverman’s beliefs are all confirmed in Factotum. Chinaski’s work experiences verify and support Braverman’s theories.

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