Determining our Intellectual Worth

imagesThis being our last blog post for the semester, I am becoming frighteningly aware of how close we are getting to the end of our college careers. Aside from the usual stress that this entails, finding a job, a place to live, etc. Being an international student or an ‘alien’, I am also thinking about my visa and how long I can legally remain in the United States. This comes with a whole set of other problems, I need to get a job under my major, I need to find one within three months of graduating, even if I do find a job and a place to stay I still only get a year in the country before I’m booted out. How does one avoid being kicked out of the country? Well, you get your employer to value you (or your ideas) enough to sponsor a permanent visa involving thousands of dollars and an attorney. Great.

The difficulties that myself and countless other non-American citizens face is not uncommon. It’s not even uncommon to face similar hurdles outside of the United States in a country you do not call home. This reminded me of what Andrew Ross touches upon in his book Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times. He talks about how capital is a freely mobile commodity while labour is often not. The immobility of labour, though, does depend on the level of skill of the worker in question. The more valuable the employee the more mobile they are across borders.

Using myself as an example:

Amaya part 1: High school educated, can enter the United States on a tourist visa. Duration: 6 months2011-03-07WorkfCharsFig1

Amaya part 2: College educated with B.o.A, can stay in the United States on a student visa. Duration: 1 year

Amaya part 3: College educated with one year of work experience, can remain in the United States on a work visa. Duration: Depends on the employer.

As my skill level increases it stands to reason that I have a much easier time being able to break the barriers before me. But what about people that don’t achieve that level of mobility? Many creative workers that work out of India supply an endless amount of labour to companies in the United States. Unfortunately, a large percentage of this creative labour is stuck, they aren’t being compensated appropriately nor do they have the ability to move.

But who is to say that even if they did work in the United States they would be compensated appropriately? They might be provided with a minimum wage, but perhaps not a living wage. How does one determine the cost of intellectual property, and can a price really even be put on creativity? According to Marx creative labour and intellectual property can be priced, but the act of doing perpetuates an unhealthy consumerist state. By trying to harness creative labour, which according to Marx is ever changing, leads to a capitalistic structure where one’s worth is comprehended by how much they can sell their ideas for.


Ross, Andrew. Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious times. New York: New York UP, 2009. Print.

Sweatshops in the World Economy- Prof.Miller

Modern Political Theory- Prof.Shomali

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