46007450 thus yield a profit (Philosophy 2003). Marx

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12/7/17

POT2002

Karl Marx and Labor

     Karl Marx is known not as
just a philosopher but as a revolutionary, whose works inspired the foundation
of many communist regimes in the twentieth century. Marx has have had much
influence in the creation of the modern world. Trained as a philosopher, Marx
turned away from philosophy in his mid-twenties, towards economics and
politics. However, in addition to his overtly philosophical early work, his
later writings have many points of contact with contemporary philosophical
debates, especially in the philosophy of history and the social sciences, and
in moral and political philosophy.

     Marx argues Capitalism is
distinctive, in that it involves not only the exchange of commodities, but the
advancement of capital, in the form of money, with the purpose of generating
profit through the purchase of commodities and their transformation into other
commodities which can command a higher price, and thus yield a profit (Philosophy
2003).
Marx claims that no previous theorist has been able to explain how capitalism
as a whole can make a profit. Marx’s own solution relies on the idea of
exploitation of the worker. In setting up conditions of production the
capitalist purchases the worker’s labor power his ability to labor for the day.
The cost of this commodity is determined in the same way as the cost of every
other, in terms of the amount of socially necessary labor power required to
produce it (Philosophy 2003). In this case the
value of a day’s labor power is the value of the commodities necessary to keep
the worker alive for a day. This can be seen in the statement, “we
have shown that the worker sinks to the level of a commodity and becomes indeed
the most wretched of commodities” (Marx n.d.). Suppose that such commodities take
four hours to produce. Thus, the first four hours of the working day is spent
on producing value equivalent to the value of the wages the worker will be paid,
this is known as ‘necessary labor’ (Philosophy 2003). Any work the worker
does above this is known as ‘surplus labor’, producing surplus value for the
capitalist (Philosophy 2003). Surplus value,
according to Marx, is the source of all profit. In Marx’s analysis labor power
is the only commodity which can produce more value than it is worth, and for
this reason it is known as variable capital. Other commodities simply pass
their value on to the finished commodities, but do not create any extra value,
they are known as constant capital. Profit, then, is the result of the labor
performed by the worker beyond that necessary to create the value of his or her
wages (Philosophy 2003).

     It is important to understand
that for Marx alienation is not only a matter of subjective feeling, or
confusion. The bridge between Marx’s early analysis of alienation and his later
social theory is the idea that the alienated individual is ‘a plaything of
alien forces’. In citizens lives they make decisions that have unintended
consequences, which then combine to create bigger social forces which may have
an unpredicted, and volatile, effect. In Marx’s view the institutions of
capitalism themselves the consequences of human behavior come back to structure
their future behavior, determining the possibilities of human action. For
example, for as long as a capitalist intends to stay in business he must
exploit his workers to the legal limit. Whether or not wracked by guilt the
capitalist must act as a ruthless exploiter. Similarly, the worker must take
the best job on offer; there is simply no other option. But by doing this we
reinforce the very structures that oppress us.  It can be seen in this excerpt, “No
sooner is the exploitation of the laborer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that he receives his wages in cash,
then he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the
shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc” (Marx n.d.). The urge to transcend this condition,
and to take collective control of our destiny whatever that would mean in
practice is one of the motivating and sustaining elements of Marx’s social
analysis.

Works Cited
Marx, Karl. n.d. Marx estrangled labor and the
communist Manifesto.
Philosophy, Stanford Encyclopedia of.
2003. “Karl Marx.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. August
26. Accessed December 7, 2017. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.