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 addictions, drinking and sex relationships, are the foundation of his life. He also considers himself a writer, another aspect in his life. The subjective state of the worker is determined by the worker’s previous history. Although Chinaski’s previous history is unheard of, his relationship with his parents, mainly his father, helps us understand his personal conditions. For example, his father tells him, “I can hardly believe you’re my son. You don’t have any ambition, you don’t have any get-up-and-go. How the hell are you going to make it in this work?” (26). Based on this, we see that Chinaski has no firm position in his life.
According to Braverman, the subjective state depends on not only on the worker’s “previous history” but also by “the general social conditions under which they work as well as the particular conditions of enterprise, and by the technical setting of their labor” (39). Chinaski just travels from city to city, finds a job and quits sooner than later, lives off of drinks, and entertains himself with prostitutes. This is what he’s surrounded by, drinks and prostitutes that make it impossible for him to settle on a decent platform that will aid him to excel. Chinaski never worked in civilized jobs, which...