Labyrinth of Work: The Myth of the Entrepreneur-Worker

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INTRODUCTION

The transformation of the world of work has been a dynamic and complex process, reflecting social, economic and cultural changes throughout history. In recent times, the concept of the worker-entrepreneur has emerged as a striking phenomenon, revealing both negative aspects and significant challenges in the contemporary work scenario. This approach has redefined people's relationship with work, outlining and accentuating inequalities and financial uncertainties. Through critical and reflective analyses, it is possible to better understand the complexities of this emerging work paradigm and seek ways to ensure equity and the necessary support for all individuals in this constantly evolving context.

  1. Unraveling the Worker-Entrepreneur: Between Innovation, Challenges and Equity in the Contemporary Labor World

Work occupation represents a crucial human element that has progressed throughout history, adapting to transformations in the economic, social and cultural spheres. In ancient civilizations, work was closely linked to subsistence, focusing primarily on agriculture and hunting, despite being essential to ensure survival, work was often strenuous and required considerable physical effort and with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, it occurred A substantial change in the nature of work, factories and production lines came to define mass production, although often at the expense of workers' health and well-being. Nowadays, we are immersed in an era in which the idea of the "worker-entrepreneur" is gaining prominence. This concept redefines the way people view work, success and financial autonomy, therefore, this article seeks to explore the evolution of concept of labor and carry out a critical analysis of the myth of the worker-entrepreneur, highlighting its advantageous and disadvantageous aspects.

In the 20th century, job stability became a priority for workers, who craved security and advantages, unions fought for better working conditions, and salaried work became the norm, providing a solid basis for family support and future planning. In the contemporary world, work plays a crucial role in people's existence and serves as an essential means for individual and social advancement. In this context, safeguarding workers' rights becomes a matter of extreme relevance, mainly because they represent the most fragile labor relations, unfortunately, the disregard for labor rights and the lack of recognition and adequate compensation are frequent, such circumstances often awaken the desire to undertake, aiming for greater independence and the opportunity to achieve more substantial profits without being subordinate to an employer . Thus, the main objective of this article is to explore the precariousness of labor relations, in which the worker is often considered more as an autonomous entrepreneur than as a member of a labor class and to understand this change in perspective, we examine the impacts of the flexibilization and deregulation of labor laws, which have given rise to phenomena such as uberization , pejotization and an overvaluation of entrepreneurship.

Under the idea that traditional Labor Law regulations placed unnecessary barriers to the flexible management of economic and social relations, several approaches and interpretations emerged seeking to align labor management processes with the economic demands of the capitalist system, however, the The outcomes obtained resulted in a greater concentration of wealth and the deterioration of working conditions in economies and societies that adopted such political and ideological guidelines.

The concept of the worker-entrepreneur is a fanciful representation fostered by neoliberalism, portraying the worker as someone individualistic, self-sufficient and capable of achieving personal success on their own merit, however, this narrative neglects the reality of working conditions, past and present, and imposes additional pressure on the worker. It is crucial to remember that a myth consists of a fictitious idea, even if many people continue to adhere to it, for the perpetuation of a myth, it is essential that the idea is constantly reiterated in people's minds until it becomes a collective belief, even if it is not true.

In the particular case of the worker-entrepreneur, this myth arises from dissatisfaction with conventional work, resulting from repeated situations of labor exploitation and moral exhaustion, this is intensified by the feeling that the worker's effort is not duly rewarded and that career advancement opportunities are limited. In this context, the worker realizes that the employer obtains most of the benefits from his work, through a phenomenon known as surplus value , also controlling the means of production and maintaining the conception that employees are easily replaceable. Faced with multiple disappointments, the worker begins to aim to become the owner of his own business and manage his own time, thus avoiding submission to the authority and arbitrariness of an employer.

Service platforms and employers who choose to hire legal entities emerge as an alternative to offer advantages to workers, however, they give up any labor or social security rights, by exempting themselves from responsibilities and obligations, demanding commitment, strenuous working hours, punctuality, retention of a significant portion of the worker's income and veiled transfer of business risks to the worker himself.

A more in-depth approach, proposed by Byung-Chul Han , sheds light on the distinction between the disciplinary society and the performance society. In the disciplinary society, the focus is on denial and obedience, while in the performance society, the emphasis is on performance itself, so when a potential crisis in capitalism reveals the super-exploitation faced by workers, the system manages to circumvent the situation, finding new ways of profiting, keeping workers alienated and perpetuating neoliberal ideologies. Capitalist society promotes the notion of the worker-entrepreneur, leading people to renounce their labor and social security rights in search of the illusion of autonomy by becoming entrepreneurs.

On the other hand, many workers are aware of the loss of rights, but submit themselves to these work relationships to guarantee their survival. In this context, labor flexibility and deregulation emerge as effective mechanisms to reduce employers' costs, at the same time in which the conditions of workers are precarious

Many workers are aware of the loss of rights, but they submit to these labor relations to guarantee their survival, in this way, labor flexibility and deregulation emerge as effective strategies to reduce employers' costs, while at the same time weakening the situation of workers. workers, in critical moments of the capitalist system, the first to suffer are the workers, especially the most vulnerable, whose rights are increasingly suppressed in favor of maintaining a system that systematically oppresses them.

With technological advances and economic changes in recent decades, the concept of work is undergoing a new metamorphosis, the myth of the worker-entrepreneur has emerged as a predominant narrative, portraying the worker as the manager of their own career and financial success. Some of the main points of this myth include:

Financial Independence: Promotes the idea that anyone can achieve financial independence through entrepreneurship, often suggesting that conventional jobs are limited.

Risk and Reward: Emphasizes the notion that taking risks and seeking entrepreneurial opportunities is the key to financial success, even though it involves uncertainty and the possibility of failure.

The myth of the worker-entrepreneur glorifies flexibility and autonomy as significant advantages of entrepreneurship, allowing people to control their schedules and choose the projects they want to work on. However, this narrative disregards the reality of past and present working conditions, placing additional pressure on the worker. It is crucial to remember that a myth is an unrealistic idea, but one that many people continue to accept. For a myth to persist, the idea must be repeatedly instilled in people's minds until it becomes a collective belief, even if it is not true.

In this context, the precariousness of work in Brazil represents a problem of considerable magnitude, deeply affecting the lives of workers and society as a whole. This phenomenon involves the reduction of labor rights and the deterioration of working conditions, resulting in low quality jobs. , insecurity and instability, the losses of precarious work in Brazil are numerous and include:

Insufficient Wages: In many precarious jobs, wages are excessively low and often do not meet the basic needs of the worker and his family. This situation leads to poverty and inequality, leading a large part of the population to live in conditions of economic vulnerability.

Financial Instability: Precarious jobs often lack long-term employment guarantees, generating constant concern about job security and the risk of dismissal. This creates an environment of financial and emotional instability.

Lack of Benefits: Workers in precarious jobs often lack access to benefits such as health care, decent retirement, unemployment insurance, and paid leave. This leaves them helpless in the face of illnesses, accidents or unemployment situations.

Exhausting Working Hours: To compensate for low wages, many workers in precarious jobs are compelled to work excessively long working hours. This can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, compromising health and quality of life.

The precariousness of work often involves the denial or blatant violation of labor rights, such as unpaid overtime, lack of paid vacation, lack of adequate breaks and dangerous working conditions. This pushes workers into informality, where they do not have legal protection or access to social security benefits, creating a cycle of vulnerability that perpetuates inequality.

Constant job insecurity, lack of career prospects and pressure for results in precarious jobs can have serious impacts on workers' mental health, contributing to an increase in cases of anxiety and depression, when precarious jobs become common, Workers may become unmotivated to invest in education and qualifications, perpetuating professional stagnation and hindering social advancement.

The precariousness of work intensifies social inequality, since precarious workers have fewer opportunities to improve their living conditions and fewer resources to invest in education and health. This can result in lower productivity and reduced consumption, negatively affecting the economic growth of the country. country.

Entrepreneurship often involves significant financial risks, many new ventures fail to make a profit or even survive, leaving entrepreneurs in situations of financial insecurity, unequal access to financial and educational resources perpetuates economic and social inequalities, limiting opportunities for everyone to become an entrepreneur successful.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely and stressful journey, entrepreneurs often face long working hours, financial pressures and the absence of a support system. The pursuit of entrepreneurial success can require significant personal sacrifices, such as time away from family and friends, lack of work-life balance, and substantial financial commitments.

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The myth of the worker-entrepreneur is a complex narrative that shapes people's perceptions of work and careers, and while it promotes innovation and independence, it also carries considerable risks and challenges for many individuals, so it is crucial to recognize that the Diversity of experiences and career choices is fundamental to a healthy and equitable society. Appropriate policies and supports are needed to ensure that everyone has fair opportunities and equal access to the benefits of work, regardless of whether they are workers or entrepreneurs.

To emphasize the procedural dimension of the concept of precariousness, it is essential to return to the first decades of the 20th century, when the dissemination of a new work ethic occurred amid technological advancement and large-scale production of the Industrial Revolution. and the rise of the Fordist model of production, characterized by intense mechanization, production line organization and specialization of workers, Fordism boosted the accumulation of wealth, increased productivity and promoted a stable consumption model, but also resulted in the loss of control of the product by the worker (Antunes, 2008).

Within this perspective, the notion of employment has established itself as the predominant norm of work, differentiating itself from the broader concept of work, since employment encompasses "all guarantees and rights mediated by it" (Aquino, 2005:3) . The hegemony of employment propagated the idea of full employment, widespread in developed countries throughout the 20th century and sought by developing countries, playing a crucial role in structuring the work society.

In this scenario, the Fordist production system began to show signs of inadequacy. According to Nardi (2006), the significant transformations in the world of work, resulting from the crisis of this system, emerged in industrialized countries and spread to developing nations, such as Brazil, between the 1980s and early 1990s, given the scope and complexity of this global process, resulting from the internationalization of capital, it is essential to highlight its main elements to understand the current labor panorama.

In Brazil, productive restructuring led to an intensification of outsourcing and subcontracting in some sectors, resulting in an increase in the number of workers unprotected by labor legislation. This was done under the argument of providing better career opportunities and promoting multifunctionality and versatility. During the last decades of the 20th century, technological advancement and globalization instigated fierce competition between markets and companies. This resulted in the spread of new deregulated work modalities, such as outsourcing, subcontracting and part-time jobs, amid a significant reduction in employment levels (Antunes, 2006).

Faced with instability in the labor market, capital introduced neoliberal political and ideological precepts as a response to the crisis. The emphasis became the flexibility of the production process, based on the Toyotist model , which is based on flexible rationality and seeks to capture the subjectivity of work. Toyotism is characterized by rules, values and organizational devices such as teamwork, total quality management, just - in-time , outsourcing and new payment systems aimed at motivating workers (Alves & Moraes, 2006).

Neoliberalism symbolizes a new stage of capitalism, emerging from this restructuring and expanding with globalization. This ideology highlights economic liberalism, promoting the market, competition and private initiative, while repudiating state intervention in the economy. It proposes a minimal State and the increasing transfer of decisions to the private sector, with the privatization of public services, governing society by the principles of efficiency and free competition, this coincides with the decrease in state intervention, accompanied by the reorganization of its internal structure , through the application of work flexibility strategies and the integration of elements of Toyotism , strengthening the neoliberal principle including in the public sector (Dias, 1996).

This new paradigm represents the reintroduction of the classical liberal model in the context of contemporary capitalism, some of the main neoliberal pillars include: minimal State intervention in the national economy; the privatization of state-owned companies; promoting the free movement of international capital and emphasizing globalization; the opening of the economy to the entry of multinationals; the simplification of economic laws and regulations to reduce bureaucracy in the State and facilitate economic activities; and encouraging increased production with a view to economic development.

CONCLUSION

The concept of the worker-entrepreneur clearly reflects the profound changes that are taking place in the world of work and in our expectations regarding our careers. This encompasses very negative aspects, such as growing financial uncertainty and the increase in economic disparities.

To better understand this issue, it is essential to recognize that not everyone starts from the same starting point to fully embrace this concept of worker-entrepreneur, many individuals face significant barriers, from lack of access to education and financial resources to systemic inequalities that limit their opportunities, therefore, it is crucial that public and social policies are aware of these inequalities and offer support both to those who seek conventional careers and to those who opt for entrepreneurship.

Ultimately, work is a cornerstone of human life, an activity that plays a fundamental role in our existence. Continuous transformations in the world of work not only reflect but also shape our societies and have a direct impact on our future, so understanding and addressing the complexities of the worker-entrepreneur concept is an essential part of ensuring that the opportunities and challenges of this new work paradigm are distributed equitably, allowing everyone the chance to thrive in a constantly evolving environment.

REFERENCES

ALVES, Giovanni; MORAES, Lívia. Work and business strategies in global capitalism: Toyotism and “capture” of subjectivity. Mediações Magazine, Florianópolis, v. 11, no. 1, p. 20-33, 2006. Available at: https://ojs.uel.br/revistas/uel/index.php/mediacoes/article/view/9006 . Accessed on: 29 Aug. 2023.

ANTUNES, Ricardo. 21st century: new era of structural precariousness of work? Work presented at the National Seminar on Mental Health and Work, São Paulo, 2008.

________________. The snail and its shell: essays on the new morphology of work. São Paulo: Boitempo , 2006.

AQUINO, Cássio AB de. Reflections on job insecurity: a Social Psychology perspective. Work presented at the II International Conference on Public Policies, São Luís, 2005. Available at: https://repositorio.ufc.br/handle/riufc/27598 . Accessed on: 29 Aug. 2023.

DIAS, Edmundo F… Capital and work: the new domination. In Sindicato de Eletricários (Ed.), The neoliberal offensive, productive restructuring and class struggle (pp. 48). Brasília: Electrical Workers Union, 1996.

HAN, Byung-Chul. Fatigue Society . Pocket Edition - Standard Edition. Translated by Enio Paulo Giachini . Petrópolis: Vozes, 2015. 136 pages.

NARDI, Henrique C. Ethics, work and subjectivity. Porto Alegre: UFRGS, 2006.

Sobre os autores
Vinicius Viana Gonçalves

Possui Bacharelado em Direito pela Faculdade Anhanguera do Rio Grande (FARG), Pós-Graduação em Ciências Políticas pela Universidade Cândido Mendes (UCAM), Pós-Graduação em Ensino de Sociologia pela Faculdade Única de Ipatinga (FUNIP), Pós-Graduação em Educação em Direitos Humanos e Mestrado em Direito e Justiça Social pela Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG). Também possui formação como Técnico em Comércio Exterior pela Escola Técnica Estadual Getúlio Vargas (Rio Grande/RS), Tecnologia em Logística pela Faculdade de Tecnologia (FATEC/UNINTER). Como pesquisador, foi membro do Núcleo de Pesquisa e Extensão em Direitos Humanos (NUPEDH) e do Grupo de Pesquisa Direito, Gênero e Identidades Plurais (DIGIPLUS), ambos vinculados ao PPGDJS/FURG. Também atuou como pesquisador vinculado ao Programa Educación para la Paz No Violencia y los Derechos Humanos, no Núcleo de Pesquisa e Extensão em Direitos Humanos (Centro de Investigación y Extensión en Derechos Humanos) da Facultad de Derecho da Universidad Nacional de Rosario (Argentina), sob coordenação do Professor Dr. Julio Cesar Llanán Nogueira, com financiamento da PROPESP-FURG/CAPES.

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