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Capital And Marx Essay

2067 words - 9 pages

Critique and Revolution: The Faces of Karl Marx

“The nobility of man shines upon us from their work hardened bodies.” (Manuscripts, 100)[1]. And according to Karl Marx, that is the bottom line. In Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and Manifesto of the Communist Party[2], two of his most profound works, Marx outlines both his harsh critique of capitalism and his prophetic theory of impending communist revolution. Although these texts are extremely complex—Manuscripts is described often as the hardest sixty pages of modern philosophy—their main points can be summed up concisely. For Marx, a worker’s labor, and therefore product, is an extension of himself, and any practice that ...view middle of the document...

Estranged labor does not seem inherently flawed until the observation is made that the more a worker produces and the more valuable his product becomes, the poorer he becomes. For Marx, this leads to the worker himself becoming a commodity that, like his product, he does not own. Instead of a worker owning his labor with his labor having inherent value, the labor is jailed inside the products, and outside of the worker. This independence of labor from its original worker is the basis for Marx’s next powerful term: “alienation.” Alienation of labor is simply when labor exists outside of the worker and when the worker has no claim over his labor. Marx sees this as having damaging effects on the worker, both tangible and spiritual. “The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not at home” (Manuscripts, 74). This situation is no longer simply inconvenient, unpleasant, or unjust. It is criminal. This is no longer voluntary labor; it is forced labor, slavery. Under the modern capitalist social and economic system, the workers have become slaves.

Marx takes a brief detour here to bring in yet another term used in his critique of capitalism by using the term “species-being.” Men are species-beings because they choose to include the species as a part of themselves and because they treat themselves as living, free species. This may seem like odd diction, but with it Marx is able to deeply connect each individual man to mankind the species. With that, damage done to an individual is inflicted on the whole species. This is the ultimate representation of the bonds of brotherhood between workers. Taking it a step further, estranged labor and alienation not only separate man from the fruits of his own labor, but from the species as a whole. It is the “estrangement of man from man” (Manuscripts, 77). All men come from an “essential” nature, so one man who is estranged from his labor, and therefore from himself, is also estranged from other men.

The stage has been set for Marx to reveal the root cause of this estrangement and alienation. It is not the factories or the division of labor; these are only intermediaries. The true culprit is private property. When labor is separated from its worker, it becomes a commodity that can be privately owned. When a worker loses his labor, he himself becomes a commodity, and likewise can be owned, or at least controlled. Such is Marx’s main criticism of capitalism: the encouragement of private property.

Marx once again takes a brief step back to remind us why we should even care about the workers’ hardships. Instead of seeing the worker as just a type of person or as a small demographic, Marx sees the worker as symbolic of all mankind. He backs up this assertion by noting that the working class is in fact a growing majority, not a minority, within the population. And because all men are bound in...

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