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Too Old to Work, Too Young to Die

In a capitalist society goods are produced to make a profit and workers are viewed primarily as economic units who can be exploited for their labour power. The elderly, having withdrawn from productive work are, therefore, at an economic disadvantage.

Hardship in old age is not a recent problem: pre-capitalist societies also recognised, and tried to legislate for, withdrawal from work. The Statute of Labourers in 1349 recognised that poverty might be the result of disability or old age. Although the Act regarded 60 years as the age at which a man might be expected to stop working, the average life expectancy in the Middle Ages was 35 years so the number of peasants surviving to old age was quite small.

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