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 Post subject: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading group
PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2016 7:20 pm 
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meta-discussion here: online-reading-group-t1321.html

I'll start by saying that this is a manuscript written pretty early on in Marx's life. At this point we're mostly uncritically accepting the categories used by contemporary political-economists with very little explanation of those categories because at the time they were widely accepted and needed little explanation. For example Marx mentions capital as “nothing but accumulated labour” and goes no further. One set of assumptions not made terribly explicit is the division of society into three great classes, the capitalist, the land owner, and the labourer.

In the preface Marx tells us that we're going to be looking at political economy and only talking about the subjects he had originally intended to write about in so far as political economy interacts with them. He also mocks Bruno Bauer and praises Feuerbach, but don't worry, Marx distances himself from Fuerbach later on in the German Ideology which might be worth looking into as a group at some point.

In the Wages of Labour we start with the single most important sentence in the entire section and probably in the entire manuscript.

[quote2="Wages of Labour"]Wages are determined through the antagonistic struggle between capitalist and worker.[/quote2]

At the very beginning of the analysis we see, in the level of wages, a class struggle. High wages are not paid to you simply because you're a good worker or your boss is a nice guy, they are paid because they have been, typically violently, wrested from the hands of the bourgeois. Low wages are not paid because blacks/women/hispanics/chinese/etc. are inferior humans and only require substandard living conditions, they are paid because they experience institutionalised violent discrimination which renders them less able to struggle successfully for higher wages. Behind the wage is the blood of countless workers, and this is our point of departure.

One of the points Marx makes is that the separation of capital, rent, and labour is only one that exists for the worker, very often the capitalist is also a landowner and the landowner a capitalist. We move on to establish that labour is a commodity subject to all the rules of the market just like any other commodity. This is not a claim that Marx will hold throughout his life, eventually we will distinguish between labour (that is, the actual labour in action), and labour-power (the potential labour, the commodity). From there we move on to point out that labour is in the most disadvantaged position when hardships settle in.

Speaking of which, Marx dedicates a solid chunk of this section to describing how the worker suffers in a state of society that is improving in wealth, but this is all we get for a state of society in decline.

[quote2="Wages of Labour"]although the working class cannot gain so much as can the class of property owners in a prosperous state of society, no one suffers so cruelly from its decline as the working class.[/quote2]

That's pretty much not an explanation at all, but this is a manuscript so it is understandable that some points are left unelaborated. Lets elaborate shall we? In contrast to the state of growing wealth where the worker is subject to overwork, in a state of decline the labour of the worker is in very slim demand, he is unable to sell himself on the market and must cope with lower and lower wages if he can find a buyer.

I would like to highlight this quote as well.

[quote2="Wages of Labour"]This shortening of their life-span is a favourable circumstance for the working class as a whole, for as a result of it an ever-fresh supply of labour becomes necessary. This class has always to sacrifice a part of itself in order not to be wholly destroyed.[/quote2]

I would like to compare it to Bordiga's Auschwitz the Great Alibi.

[quote2="Auschwitz the Great Alibi"]The petite bourgeoisie reacted by sacrificing one of its parts to the horrible economic pressure, to the threat of diffuse destruction that rendered uncertain the existence of each of its members, hoping in this way to save and ensure the existence of the others. Anti-Semitism comes no more from a “Machiavellian plan” that it does from “wicked ideas.” It directly results from economic constraints. The hatred of the Jews, far from being the a priori reason for their destruction was only the expression of this desire to limit and concentrate destruction on them.

It sometimes happens that that the workers themselves give themselves over to racism. This happens when, threatened with massive unemployment, they attempt to concentrate it on certain groups: Italians, Poles or other “filthy foreigners,” “dirty Arabs,” “*******,” etc.[/quote2]

Thus racism serves as a mechanism with which the concentration of poverty can take place so that the greater part of the class is somewhat relieved of this burden.

It is also worth noting that Marx, even at this early stage, identifies over-production as the cause for the crisis.

A few more points I'd like to bring attention to is the emphasis on the fact that the labourer becomes the slave to the machine rather than being liberated by the machine. The machine does in fact save labour, but when Schulz says “the way in which the booty, that we win from old Cronus [Greek God associated with time.] himself in his most private domain, is shared out is still decided by the dice-throw of blind, unjust Chance.” He is decidedly wrong. Marx has already told us that wages are the result of struggle, and what is the wage if not the remuneration of labour time? The “booty” is not shared by chance, but by struggle.

The special law of population unique to capitalism is also pointed out whereby poverty breeds (over) population, and we then see how this mass of labour is used up. Namely, by paying it so poorly that it is unable to sustain itself and must be renewed from this over population.

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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 12:36 pm 
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It’s been a while since I’ve dealt with Marx so some of the questions I have may seem elementary to many on this forum, but whatever, I guess that’s the point of this.

For the preface and for reading Marx in general, it is probably important to understand that Marx is a materialist, which, to be brief, basically is the worldview that being determines consciousness. The materialist worldview says that people make history through inherited conditions. This is necessarily a Marxist philosophy, though it may not be all that important for this selection of reading, idk.

History is made up of a series of class struggle, serf versus lord, slave versus master, peasant versus landowner, worker versus capitalist etc. The wage is the result of a history of class struggle between the ruling and working class, it is both an achievement for the workers who without it would be enchained either in serfdom or in chattel slavery, and simultaneously it is another form of bondage. Not only is the condition of wage labour a result of historical class struggle, but as Marx explains, the amount of the wage is a determined through class struggle.

Of course, the capitalist is always at a much more advantaged position to determine the rate at which the worker is paid. This advantage that the capitalist has over worker is not only enshrined by property law but is also insured by other conditions that Marx discusses such as the division of labor.

When Marx says that “the separation of capital, rent and labor is thus fatal to the worker” I believe he is talking about the power that the capitalist has to select how he wants business to operate. In the same way that the capitalist will choose the cheapest land possible that is suitable for his business he can also choose his labor force (which determines the initial wages) which means he can also lay off his labor force and move business elsewhere for cheaper labor.

Is this all he is talking about by this point? That essentially the capitalist can pack up shop and move elsewhere with little sacrifice while the worker is pretty much bound to his community and can only move to where employment is at a great cost? Does outsourcing of jobs to other countries with cheaper labor count as the separation of capital, rent and labor?

Labor is a commodity Marx says, and if supply exceeds demand there will be increased unemployment, there is always a significant amount unemployment which helps keep labor cheaper and maintains competition among workers. When supply exceeds demand in labor there is increase in general immiseration, i.e. poverty, homelessness, crime, etc. I also wanted to note that if labor can be considered a commodity then it follows that it must be kept cheap even for more skilled and higher paid forms of labor. So then the “production of men” must involve the shaping of minds, which holds implications for education and socialization of children in capitalism. That is something for a later discussion perhaps...

I understand that that the capitalist need only pay the worker enough for his subsistence and this fact is demonstrated with the inverse relationship between wages and provisions. Wages may rise but at the same time the cost of bread will go up or vice versa, so, little to no gain for the worker. But what determines the natural price of goods? I honestly don’t know the difference between market price and natural price, tbh…

Ok, thats all I can post for right now, just gonna post the first half of what I have to say to get the thread going… Will post more questions and thoughts later on this weekend!


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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:06 pm 
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N00BMarxist wrote:
It’s been a while since I’ve dealt with Marx so some of the questions I have may seem elementary to many on this forum, but whatever, I guess that’s the point of this.


Ah if only there were "many on this forum" :P

N00BMarxist wrote:
History is made up of a series of class struggle, serf versus lord, slave versus master, peasant versus landowner, worker versus capitalist etc. The wage is the result of a history of class struggle between the ruling and working class, it is both an achievement for the workers who without it would be enchained either in serfdom or in chattel slavery, and simultaneously it is another form of bondage. Not only is the condition of wage labour a result of historical class struggle, but as Marx explains, the amount of the wage is a determined through class struggle.


While it is undeniably true that the condition of wage labour is a result of historical class struggle, you seem to be framing history as though the slave struggled against the master in order to become a serf which then struggled against the lord in order to become a worker, and that if the worker starts losing his struggle too bad he can potentially become either a serf or slave once more. This is not the case. It is important to understand that capitalism is a fundamentally different organisation of production than that of slavery or serfdom.

Let us compare the position of the slave, serf, and worker. The serf works on his own land and harvests this product and keeps it for himself, he is made to work on his lord's land and this product goes to the lord. The distinction that exists between the labour necessary for his own reproduction, and the labour taken from him is VERY clear. For the slave, it appears as though all of his labour is taken from him, but if this were the case he would quickly starve and die. The master must feed, clothe, and house the slave which constitutes the portion of the slave's labour that belongs to him. The labour of the worker appears as though he appropriates all of it for himself, but the capitalist makes a profit which constitutes the portion of the worker's labour that goes unpaid.

Let us assume the worker "loses" the class struggle so miserably that he must work for free or nearly for free (this is the case in some parts of the world), in that event the working class would quickly starve and die as a class leaving the capitalists with no labour force to exploit. This is never the case though. Some of the working class gets thrown out of the conditions of production, some of the working class gets paid bitterly poor wages, but the working class, as a class, can never be continually paid below that amount needed to reproduce the class of workers, which Marx does point out in this work.

It is also worth noting, as something of an aside, that it is not the working class (in a historic sense, i.e. the serfs slaves and modern workers) generally that makes revolution. It was the bourgeois that made revolution against the feudal aristocracy to establish capitalism.

N00BMarxist wrote:
When Marx says that “the separation of capital, rent and labor is thus fatal to the worker” I believe he is talking about the power that the capitalist has to select how he wants business to operate. In the same way that the capitalist will choose the cheapest land possible that is suitable for his business he can also choose his labor force (which determines the initial wages) which means he can also lay off his labor force and move business elsewhere for cheaper labor.

Is this all he is talking about by this point? That essentially the capitalist can pack up shop and move elsewhere with little sacrifice while the worker is pretty much bound to his community and can only move to where employment is at a great cost? Does outsourcing of jobs to other countries with cheaper labor count as the separation of capital, rent and labor?


Marx, in referring to capital rent and labour, is talking about what the political economists conceived of as the three classes of society, capitalists land owners and workers. Marx points out that this separation only really exists for the workers, because capitalists are often landowners and vice versa. The separation is fatal for workers because the only source of revenue they have access to is their labour. The separation between capital rent and labour isn't a point that Marx clings to very much and won't remain terribly important in further works.

You are not wrong that the capitalist has the power to move his business elsewhere, invest and withdraw capital on a whim, and in this way find the highest possible profit, typically coinciding with the lowest possible wages. One of the points Marx makes is that the labourer is bound to their specific type of labour, whereas the capitalist just has money basically which he can invest in any sphere of production he wants. This means that capital is flexible and able to adapt to change whereas labour is not and must deal with the consequences.

N00BMarxist wrote:
Labor is a commodity Marx says, and if supply exceeds demand there will be increased unemployment, there is always a significant amount unemployment which helps keep labor cheaper and maintains competition among workers. When supply exceeds demand in labor there is increase in general immiseration, i.e. poverty, homelessness, crime, etc. I also wanted to note that if labor can be considered a commodity then it follows that it must be kept cheap even for more skilled and higher paid forms of labor. So then the “production of men” must involve the shaping of minds, which holds implications for education and socialization of children in capitalism. That is something for a later discussion perhaps...


It absolutely involves shaping minds, one of the works I was interested in going over, either in person or through this medium if we think it goes well, is The German Ideology, which focuses a lot on the ideas of the ruling class and how they tend to dominate.

N00BMarxist wrote:
I understand that that the capitalist need only pay the worker enough for his subsistence and this fact is demonstrated with the inverse relationship between wages and provisions. Wages may rise but at the same time the cost of bread will go up or vice versa, so, little to no gain for the worker. But what determines the natural price of goods? I honestly don’t know the difference between market price and natural price, tbh…

Ok, thats all I can post for right now, just gonna post the first half of what I have to say to get the thread going… Will post more questions and thoughts later on this weekend!


Market price and natural price are terms that contemporary political economists used that Marx will not be using for very long before giving them critical consideration.

The way the political economists use them is that "market price" is that price you will pay for a given item at a given time in a given place on the market. The "natural price" on the other hand is the price around which supply and demand oscillate so that when they balance out they come to this "natural price"

The question "What determines the natural price of goods?" is a great one that leads us directly to the labour theory of value. The amount of labour required to produce a commodity determines the value of that commodity.

Good questions man, you seem to be grappling with the material successfully. We should've done this sooner.

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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:10 pm 
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It is also worth pointing out how relevant this work is even today.

Arty is in the middle of criticising someone who fails to grasp the very first sentence of this section.

Arty wrote:
First things first: "to be shared between the factory owner, the workers, the suppliers of inputs..." Shared? Between the factory owner and the workers? Capitalists don't share profits with workers, not in Bangladesh, not in Germany, not in China, not in the US. They don't "share" even when they call compensation "profit sharing."

Capitalists appropriate surplus value, unpaid labor-time, from workers. Arguing that capitalists "share" profit from workers with workers is like arguing that muggers "share" profits from mugging with their victims when they leave one victim $2.75 for a single-ride Metrocard.

Capitalists may appropriate a larger or smaller portion of the surplus value, a portion dependent upon the level of organization of the working class, market conditions, but the appropriation is always an appropriation, an equal exchange that is in fact, unequal. "Sharing" is the mythology flogged by the bourgeoisie to veil the relations between the value of labor-power and the value that labor-power produces.

post17744.html#p17744


Wages of Labour wrote:
Wages are determined through the antagonistic struggle between capitalist and worker.

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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 11:00 pm 
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I just started learning about communism in the last couple of months, so my ideas are somewhat under developed. An issue that I hope to fix with more knowledge and practice.

Preface
Marx wrote a critique of the Hegelian philosophy of law and in the midst of writing it reached the conclusion that there are numerous topics (law, ethics, politics) that he could critique each topic independent of each other. This will allow him go into depth with each topic and it will be easier to present them to readers. Then once he has critiqued each topic he will publish one work to illustrate how they connect to each other. Below is one of the topics:

Wages of Labour
Marx states in the opening sentence “Wages are determined through the antagonistic struggle between capitalist and worker”, which illustrates the negative relationship that exist between the working class and the capitalist (ruling class). The relationship between the worker and the capitalist is one of parasitism of the latter on the former. Capitalists exploit the working class and only supplies them the minimum wages to support a family and even then in some cases the worker is given below the minimum to feed the entirety of his family.
This is interesting because it creates the dynamic of the worker driven to thievery to sustain its family and thus giving rise to a section of the working class that must enforce and protect the property of the ruling class.

In another section in Wages of Labour, Marx points out the dynamic between the wealth of the society and the worker. It is important to note that capital is accumulated labour and that prices of provision and labour are inversely proportionate to each other. In one state in which the wealth of the society is on the decline the prices of labour decrease because of the decrease of demand, but must rise since the price of provision increased. The prices of labour must increase in order to allow the worker to buy enough provisions to keep the working class alive, so prices of labour and provisions balance each other. Also in a society where the wealth in on the decline worker suffers first and more heavily than the capitalist, who can readily rely on his resources (i.e. interest on capital and rent). In addition, the capitalist can rely on fellow capitalists to provide support, such as in the 2008 crash in which the financial and automotive sectors were supplied big bailouts. However, the worker isn’t given any of these multi-billion dollar bailouts. Instead workers are laid off in order to increase the upper management salaries and bonus checks.

In another state in which the wealth of the society is increasing, this “benefits” the worker. There is a demand for workers, so there is an increase in wages. However, this increase requires an intense sacrifice of time that leads to the worker’s decrease lifespan, a slave to capital, and ultimately a machine form of labor. Therefore, even in this state that “benefits” the worker, it actually just screws them over.

The last point, which I found very interesting is “up to the present, industry has been in a state of war, a war of conquest”. Capitalist are in the conquest of wealth and not the happiness of a society. Men are but commodities that can be exploited to amass more wealth. This is relevant in the current wars and the drive of the developed countries for imperialism. The happiness and stability of any society is not relevant to the Capitalist need to obtain capital and this drive can potentially culminate in a nuclear war. This formulates the question of why capitalist countries, such as the US is willing to threaten to enter a nuclear war when it could potentially lose more wealth than it could gain?


Questions:
Why is the separation of capital, rent, and labour is thus fatal for the worker?
In France it was calculated that every working person had to work about five hours a day to satisfy the material needs of a society. Have there been studies on how many hours a day would every working person in the US have to work to meet the needs of its society? Assuming of course that this scenario includes the working class.


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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 9:53 am 
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DM wrote:
Capitalists exploit the working class and only supplies them the minimum wages to support a family and even then in some cases the worker is given below the minimum to feed the entirety of his family. This is interesting because it creates the dynamic of the worker driven to thievery to sustain its family and thus giving rise to a section of the working class that must enforce and protect the property of the ruling class.


While it is true that the capitalist attempts to drive wages to the very bare minimum of human existence, they are not always successful in doing so. The working class tends to struggle for more than just an animal existence, they are not always successful either of course. Marx was pointing out that this minimum exists at the level of animal existence, and that the capitalists strive to achieve this minimum and even more. Super-exploitation of a section of the working class, that is, paying them below the minimum necessary to sustain their existence, is an effective tool to achieve very large profits.

The type of theft and crime you allude to amounts to an atomised version of the abolition of private property, showing us in a small way that capitalism creates its own gravediggers in the form of the working class, and that because of this antagonism the capitalist state must violently enforce the conditions of production. That these conditions are in fact not natural and without resistance from the ruling class would very rapidly (compared to the rate we're going at now) break down.

DM wrote:
In addition, the capitalist can rely on fellow capitalists to provide support, such as in the 2008 crash in which the financial and automotive sectors were supplied big bailouts. However, the worker isn’t given any of these multi-billion dollar bailouts. Instead workers are laid off in order to increase the upper management salaries and bonus checks.


In actual fact, the capitalists didn't need to rely on each other to bail themselves out, they simply immiserated the working class further in order to do so. The capitalists did work together, as a class, to carry out this assault on the working class, but the actual transfer of wealth was from the working class upwards and not side to side within the capitalist class (although some clever capitalists surely were able to fleece each other in the process as well). The laying off of workers and driving down of wages that you cite are examples of how that wealth is transferred up.

DM wrote:
In another state in which the wealth of the society is increasing, this “benefits” the worker. There is a demand for workers, so there is an increase in wages. However, this increase requires an intense sacrifice of time that leads to the worker’s decrease lifespan, a slave to capital, and ultimately a machine form of labor.


This is an interesting point in and of itself, the decrease of the workers' lifespan as a result of overwork. This can be taken in the double-sense that work is very often hazardous to the physical health of the worker and thus further exposure to work decreases their biological lifespan, but there is also the sense that while the worker is working his life is not his own possession, that he has sold a portion of his lifetime away. The more of his lifetime he sells away, of course, the less of it he has for himself.

DM wrote:
This formulates the question of why capitalist countries, such as the US is willing to threaten to enter a nuclear war when it could potentially lose more wealth than it could gain?


You are, of course, referring to the strategic and economic encirclement the US is making of China and Russia. It should be noted that the capitalists generally don't really want war, what they want is the opposing nations to effectively 'bend the knee' and succumb to any economic sanctions and trade agreements that the other group of nations want. Actaully I lied, the capitalists do want war, at least a section of them, and that is important to keep in mind, the capitalists are not always a united class, that they have sectional and national interests. The interests of US capital is to create highly profitable trade agreements with other nations that serve to take profits from that nation and bring them into the US instead through various mechanisms such as import and export tariffs. There's also a section of the capitalists that work in manufacturing arms and armaments that would obviously like nothing more than to expand their market i.e. have a war. Then there's the wartime reconstruction business which would be quite the booming business considering just how destructive the weapons of the bourgeois have grown.

Generally, to answer your question, the aggressor nations are banking on the fact that while more societal wealth may be lost, the wealth they gain as a nation, better yet as the capitalists of that nation, will exceed that lost by them. The working class tends to be the one that loses most direly in times of war, both at home and abroad.


DM wrote:
Why is the separation of capital, rent, and labour is thus fatal for the worker?
In France it was calculated that every working person had to work about five hours a day to satisfy the material needs of a society. Have there been studies on how many hours a day would every working person in the US have to work to meet the needs of its society? Assuming of course that this scenario includes the working class.


As for the separation of capital, rent, and labour, do try not to get too hung up on this distinction, it isn't one we'll be clinging to for terribly long in Marx's writings, but what he was saying is that labour is divorced from other means of revenue. This is, however, not strictly true for capital and rent, the landowner is often a capitalist and vice versa. The labourer can rely upon labour alone to satisfy his needs.

As to the second, I do seem to recall reading a study a while back that said we could all live at the american 'middle-class' lifestyle of someone from the 1950's if everyone worked 2 hours a day. I don't think I'd be able to locate it though.

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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 7:09 pm 
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Broletariat wrote:
While it is true that the capitalist attempts to drive wages to the very bare minimum of human existence, they are not always successful in doing so. The working class tends to struggle for more than just an animal existence, they are not always successful either of course. Marx was pointing out that this minimum exists at the level of animal existence, and that the capitalists strive to achieve this minimum and even more. Super-exploitation of a section of the working class, that is, paying them below the minimum necessary to sustain their existence, is an effective tool to achieve very large profits.

Yes. I guess I was more trying to illustrate that throughout history there has always been the ruling and working class and the former struggling against the later. I didn’t mean to frame it as a progression from one primitive form of class struggle to a more advanced one. Wage slavery has outmoded serfdom, but slavery, the most base and violent form of exploitation has existed alongside both serfdom and capitalism and in fact still exists to this day.

Ok, I want to add a few remarks on labor before we get to the next part of the selection.

One thing that is really interesting to me and perhaps is somewhat beyond the scope of this discussion is where he says “The labour prices of the various kinds of workers show much wider differences than the profits in the various branches in which capital is applied”

The reason why there are various prices of labor to do with division of labor and the alienation that is a result of it. Alienation in labor is when the worker is sequestered from the entire production process and this has to do capital as property of the capitalist and his power to exploit the work. The worker’s position in the line of production is the result of strategic atomization of the production process for the purpose of more effective production as well as to keep labor cheap. If a worker was anymore involved in the overall production process then that would generally mean he has more power, gets paid more and would require better training.

This alienation that worker suffers from carries over not only in the production process but also in capitalist society at large. He suffers from under or unemployment, or a fall in wages when wealth is in decline and is forced to work harder when wealth increases. It should be noted perhaps that because the product that the worker makes is not his property he does not have any special right to it (maybe he gets an employee discount or something). He does not enjoy the profit it makes as a commodity and he can only enjoy its use value as any other consumer.

The worker suffers in his very existence, both physical and spiritual. The alienation that comes with the division of labor harms his spiritual existence because he is reduced to a machine and only gets paid enough for an animal existence. He is not a craftsman entitled to his products and who enjoys oversight on the product’s effect on society, the worker only takes a small part in the production of a commodity, which he can only fully interact with as a consumer. This is damaging to the spirit of the worker. I know I hate my job and I honestly could not fully explain what it is my employer does or if I could vouch for its usefulness in society. We’ve already gone through the various way in which the worker suffers in his physical existence, what is interesting to me is the suffering in his “spirit.” It is obvious that people suffer when there is depression and the wealth of a society is in decline, both it is the fact the interests of capitalist society are against the interests of the working class. When a capitalist society is growing it means the capitalist controls more of the workers existence, the worker has to work harder, with not much of a raise in pay. With the majority of the population being forced to live a miserable existence even when society is growing it would seem like an amazing feat for the minority of capitalist to stay in power and to keep the masses from rising. Obviously racism, division of labor and many other tools at the capitalist’s disposal have kept the masses unsuccessful at revolution for most part.

What is interesting to me is the idea of not working as an attempt to preserve one’s dignity. That maybe why there is a concept called “work ethic” which is as far as the worker’s position in capitalism is concerned is the ability to mentally withstand long hours of miserable and alienating labor without complaining or slacking off. The average worker is perpetually stuck in a cycle of trading off freedom for the means of supporting him and his family physically.


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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:57 pm 
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You've already answered why the price of labour is more variable than the profit of capital when you've addressed the "higher skilled" labour. This type of labour, of course, requires more training, and thus more labour, to create. You are correct in identifying the division of labour with this gradation of wages, but I think you are misusing the term "alienation" in a way that isn't too terribly uncommon.

I'm only going to briefly address it now because there is an entire section devoted to it (Estranged Labour) in the current work, so we can go more into detail there.

In short, in Marx's day it was a common occurrence for say, a blacksmith, to own all of his own means of production and simply sell what he made. Small artisans essentially. However, times would go bad or they would be forced in to competition with larger capitalists, and the small artisans would go bankrupt. Now the capitalist comes along and will literally just buy all the means of production this artisan was JUST using and pay him to do the same thing he was just doing, except now the product belongs to the capitalist, not the worker. The product is alien to him, it confronts him not as his own property, not as his own creation, but as the possession of his employer. No part of this product is his, and he is not paid as though any part of it belonged to him. He is paid strictly for his labour, thus the product of man's labour can only be alien to him if his own labour is alien to him, that is, the property of another man.

The fact of the matter is, you are literally selling your labour, it no longer belongs to you because you have sold it. Your daily activity is not your own.

It should be clear, then, that it does not matter what type of labour specifically you are doing, all labour is alienating, even the work of a hired artist.

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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:16 am 
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So this section is neatly divided up into four subsections which makes summarising and talking about it much easier. In the first section we establish a pretty rudimentary definition of capital that does wind up capturing the overall essence of what capital is, stored up labour that yields a revenue to its owner. Just before this, however, Marx points out something we have already pointed out, that private property generally, and capital specifically, require positive law to exist.

Broletariat wrote:
the capitalist state must violently enforce the conditions of production. That these conditions are in fact not natural and without resistance from the ruling class would very rapidly (compared to the rate we're going at now) break down.


In the next section, Smith points out that capitalists don't necessarily do anything, what makes them capitalists is the mere fact of owning something, and you don't have to do anything to own something basically. The following sketch demonstrates this point nicely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEstCBP6ZLo&t=812s

So the capitalist demands a profit for simply owning capital, but not only this, they demand a profit proportional to the amount of capital they own. This simply means that, on average across industries the rate of profit is the same, say, 10%. If the capitalist can find somewhere to make more than 10%, they'll invest there instead, until supply and demand pushes profits back down to 10%.

When Smith speaks of the highest level of profit coinciding with the lowest possible wages, he is not wrong, he is, however, wrong about what the lowest level of wages can be. As recently discussed in the New Imperialism thread ( on-new-imperialism-t1324.html ) the fact of the matter is often that the worker is paid less than what is required to maintain the existence of said worker. Marx himself has already remarked on this in the previous section, but we're talking about profit now, not wages.

One of the important points made in closing for this subsection is that the progress of society in terms of production is only done so at the benefit of capital, wages do not go up with advances in machinery, profits do.

The third subsection is quite short and chiefly serves to highlight that society as a whole is directed by the profit motive. The “best” employment of productive stock is not the one which renders the most utility to man-kind, but the one which renders the most profit to the capitalist.

In the fourth section, Marx is primarily dealing with the argument from Smith that, yes the capitalist desires to screw over the worker and the consumer, but in order to make a profit he has to deal with competing capitalists which forces him to pay higher wages and offer more reasonable prices. It is a classic position which holds that competition, or the free market, is the best, most efficient, method of running society so that all members are treated more fairly.

Marx's argument is essentially that competition among capitalists necessarily ends in the victory of the large capitalists over the small, forcing the small capitalists to become proletarian which further ruins the working class by increasing their population. Moreover, the creation of new smaller capitals is desirable for the larger capitals so that they can consume the smaller capitals and thereby increase their own profit.

Later on we bring up Smith's pretty flawed conception of circulating and fixed capital, but we roll with it for now, but we should note that Marx makes substantial revisions to the categories of circulating and fixed capital when we come to Capital. The point of bringing it up now is merely to show another way in which big capital has the advantage over small capital.

I'd also like to give some figures that Arty provided in the New Imperialism thread that shed further light on the comment Marx made

Marx wrote:
As is well known, large-scale cultivation usually provides employment only for a small number of hands.


Arty wrote:
The ship is owned by Maersk, carries 12,000 containers and is crewed by a staff of....14 including approximately 7 officers. Get that? 12,000/14/7. And a few more numbers: length, 366 meters; beam, 49 meters; crew, still 14. By the way, container fleet size, measured in deadweight tons (dwt) has increased by a factor of 15 in the last 35 years.


Eventually, Marx comes to the topic of overproduction where we highlight the chaos of the market whereby “each produces what he wishes, as he wishes, when he wishes, where he wishes, produces well or produces badly, produces too much or not enough, too soon or too late, at too high a price or too low a price; none knows whether he will sell, to whom he will sell, how he will sell, when he will sell, where he will sell. And it is the same with regard to purchases. The producer is ignorant of needs and resources, of demand and supply. He sells when he wishes, when he can, where he wishes, to whom he wishes, at the price he wishes. And he buys in the same way. In all this he is ever the plaything of chance, the slave of the law of the strongest, of the least harassed, of the richest.”

Because each producer is enabled to produce freely, there must be some regulating force to ensure society doesn't collapse. Instead of consciously regulating production through a social plan, regulation is enforced through the laws of the market which assert themselves like a natural force that must be obeyed lest the capitalist be ruined.

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 Post subject: Re: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 reading gro
PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2016 9:32 pm 
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Continuing on the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 on the section titled Profit of Capital. Marx starts with the following: What is the basis of capital, that is, of private property in the products of other men's labour? Right from the start capital is stated as being derived from the products of other men’s labour, so right from the start the working class labour isn’t their own, it belongs to the capitalist. It reinforces the previous section capitalist and workers have an antagonistic relationship. It also highlights the reality that a capitalist society always requires a working force to exploit. The working force doesn’t revolt for a number of reasons; among them is the threat of military force shutting down their revolt, social norm of being raised under a capitalist system, so the working class “believes” it to be normal, and a feeling of powerless. What can we do to change it? It doesn’t matter if I vote for a third party, they aren’t going to win. It has always been like this. These are some of the concerns I have and have heard from other working class members. I know these are broad and very open-ended questions, but it sort of illustrates the capitalist systems is the only thing people know since they have co-existed with it since they were born.


Another point I found interesting was the implications of having a large capital. Marx quotes Adam Smith, “The power that possession immediately and directly conveys to him, is the power of purchasing; a certain command over all the labour…..”. By having a large amount of capital it gives the capitalist power over the working class and over any other capitalist whose capital is less than his/hers. Capitalist can control the wages given to the working class. Competition among capitalist seems to be only defense for the working class according to Adam Smith since it raises wages and lowers the prices of commodities for consumers. However this competition is only effective when there are multiple competitors, which isn’t the natural state that capitalists want to remain in since it doesn’t completely benefit them. Therefore the capitalist employs different methods to reduce its competition and in this competition the capitalist with the greatest reserve of capital is going to win. The wealthier capitalist has the advantage of being able to buy more in bulk, which reduces the price of their commodities, so they can sell it at a lower price while still making a profit. This is something the smaller capitalist cannot do. The wealthier capitalist can starve smaller capitalist by selling cheaper than the smaller capitalist until the capitalist is forced to go out of business. Similarly to Wal-Mart business model of selling cheaper than the other groceries/retail stores/small owner operated stores, which eventually put the small capitalists out of business to allow Wal-Mart to soak up all the profits from those consumers who used to buy at those small stores. Similarly to utility companies that monopolize one area and you are required to buy and pay for their sub-par services, which they don’t even have to improve. Therefore competition doesn’t just increase wages, reduce prices of commodities, it also improves the working conditions of workers, improves the quality of commodities, and improves services. This is evident in restaurants, which strive to offer quality service and food because they know they are in competition with other restaurants.

Marx goes on to quote more Adam Smith on the definitions of fixed capital and circulating capital, “Circulating capital is a capital which is “employed in raising” provisions, “manufacturing, or purchasing goods, and selling them again…” and “Fixed capital consists of capital invested “in the improvement of land, in the purchase of useful machines and instruments of trade, or in such-like things”. I assume circulating capital is one that continually being invested in obtaining labour, getting commodities to sell, and being used to move products in and out. Fixed capital is the one used to buy the space and invest into equipment. The fixed capital amount is more favorable to the wealthiest capitalist because it is the start up cost and if a big capitalist and a small capitalist start the same business they both have similar start up cost, but to the big capitalist it isn’t as much of his/her capital as it is for the smaller capitalist. I do have a question about the following: It is generally true that the accumulation of large capital is also accompanied by a proportional concentration and simplification of fixed capital, as compared to the smaller capitalists. What is the simplification of fixed capital?

The passage used by Pecqueur about capitalist “freedom” to be able to control many aspects of production and how they use their wealth is alluding to the capitalist are the ones who have the freedom in a capitalist society. However they only have the freedom to do this if their capital is bigger than their competitors. Therefore wealthier capitalist have larger degrees of freedom than do the smaller capitalist. The final point I want to make is based on Ricardo’s observation, “Nations are merely production-shops; man is a machine for consuming and producing: human life is a kind of capital; economic laws blindly rule the world”. This made me realize that in a capitalist society people who are mentally handicapped, physically handicapped, or in any way physically or mentally incapable of producing, than they are useless. Since they are not part of the production they don’t get any “benefits” and the burden of caring for them usually falls on the loved ones or other working people.


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