Here was Durham’s, for instance, owned by a man who was trying to make as much money out of it as he could, and did not care in the least how he did it; and underneath him, ranged in ranks and grades like an army, were managers and superintendents and foremen, each one driving the man next below him and trying to squeeze out of him as much work as possible. And all the men of the same rank were pitted against each other; the accounts of each were kept separately, and every man lived in terror of losing his job, if another made a better record than he.
Tamoszius explains to Jurgis how the meatpacking factories work. According to Tamoszius, the factory owners are only concerned with making money and do not care how the workers are treated or about the quality of the products. Perhaps he unknowingly describes the dangers of capitalism, or how greed for money at the higher levels of society can cause the working class to suffer. Not only do the workers suffer financially and physically, but they feel isolated and competitive as they do not want anyone to surpass them and take their job.
The city, which was owned by an oligarchy of business men, being nominally ruled by the people, a huge army of graft was necessary for the purpose of effecting the transfer of power.
The narrator describes how, when Jurgis turns to a life of crime, he sees the widespread corruption in Chicago’s politics. While he and his family once saw America as a place of freedom, where citizens had a say in their elections, he now understands that money controls everything. This system makes the opportunity for immigrants and working-class people to move up in the world even more unlikelhy, as they have no power and not even their votes can make a difference.
That was “competition,” so far as it concerned the wage-earner, the man who had only his labor to sell; to those on top, the exploiters, it appeared very differently, of course—there were few of them, and they could combine and dominate, and their power would be unbreakable. And so all over the world two classes were forming, with an unbridged chasm between them, —the capitalist class, with its enormous fortunes, and the proletariat, bound into slavery by unseen chains. The latter were a thousand to one in numbers, but they were ignorant and helpless, and they would remain at the mercy of their exploiters until they were organized—until they had become “class-conscious.”
As Ostrinski begins to explain socialism to Jurgis, he describes exactly how capitalism works. Even though the workers far outnumber the capitalists, workers are dependent on jobs provided by the capitalists for money, while capitalists retain their money and power. Ostrinski describes the working class as slaves who are unaware of their situation. Only by acknowledging their place in society and the evils inflicted by the capitalist class will the workers be able to fight back. However, the workers become so fatigued by their jobs and lifestyle that they do not pay much attention to their oppression.