A Marxist reading on remote work

One could argue that the menace of easy replacement is the best threat someone might brandish against any worker. For example: Andreas Malm argues that the displacement of rural workers from their land to cities is a necessary condition for the generation of surplus gains (plusvalía, if you prefer) in the early beginnings of fossil capitalism in England.

Remote work, then, is the perfect case of capitalistic relocalization. First, the pool of candidates is increased by not requiring relocalization. The threath of non-compliance with unfair labour wages or conditions is neutralized by an increased pool of candidates who, living wherever they want, might need less money to pay, for example, rent. Second, working conditions in such places result in high rotation rates, since most people end up burned out and/or find something better. In practice, higher rotation also means a constant flow of fresh people pushed out of other laboral oportunities or just out of university end up in these places. Third_ if legal (or alegal) a big enough company might cause competition to adopt a bodyshopping policy - where workers work in a bigger company than theirs, and are bound to the laboral conditions and wages that generate surplus in both companies, but the smaller one (where the worker is based legally) holds the legal contract. Perceived underperformance can be legally tied to the smaller company, then, so any social benefits the worker might get from being fired are tied to an external entity that runs with the costs. Surplus is, effectively, doubled by outsourcing legal trouble and taxes. Of course, when taken globally it also means one can hire developers from the other point of the world to take care of your code for way less, as long as bureaucracy allows you.

Remote work has its upsides for workers and downsides for companies, of course, but I found this idea interesting. I wonder if the increase of remote work in places like Spain, where bodyshopping is legal (or at least tolerated in most tech companies) will lead to either mean higher rotation or lower wages.

(Note that this is a purely theoretical vision. I don’t know if that’s why companies engage in outsourcing, or if all of them are motivated by this. Just a shallow analysis of the situation, as seen by a developer in Spain.)