Marx View on Capitalism

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  • Topic: Capitalism, Exploitation, Marxist theory
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1b. Summarize Marx’s views on the market, alienation, the labor theory of value, the surplus value, and the accumulation of capital. Are these views relevant in the 20th century and during the contemporary globalization? If so, how? How are these views related with Thorstein Veblens ideas? Please give specific reference to the relevant readings.

Theory of Alienation--his analysis of how people are bound to become estranged from themselves and each other under the conditions of capitalist industrial production (Hooker). This Theory of Alienation is often considered the philosophical underpinning for his later more technical critique of capitalism as an economic system (Bramann).

Marx developed his theory of alienation to reveal the human activity that lies behind the seemingly impersonal forces dominating society. He showed how, although aspects of the society we live in appear natural and independent of us, they are the results of past human actions (Bramann). Marx showed not only that human action in the past created the modern world, but also that human action could shape a future world free from capitalism. Marx understood alienation as something rooted in the material world. Alienation meant loss of control, specifically the loss of control over labour (wikipedia).

Marx begins his analysis of alienated labour by noting what happens to workers under capitalism. As the worker creates wealth, this wealth is created for the capitalist and not for the worker or direct producer, and the condition of the worker deteriorates. The worker produces commodities, out of these commodities capital is created, and capital comes to dominate the worker. The worker him or her self becomes devalued (worth less – lower wages) as a result. In his 1844 writing “The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and extent. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he produces ... the object that labour produces, its product, stands opposed to it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer ... All these consequences are contained in this characteristic, that the worker is related to the product of labour as to an alien object.”

Marx became a revolutionary because he came to believe that capitalism could not be reformed. In the end, capitalism could only create alienation and estrangement. As he describes: there is an "essential connection between private property, greed, the separation of labour, capital and landed property, exchange and competition, value and the devaluation of man, monopoly, and competition, etc. - the connection between this entire system of estrangement and the money system." (Marx: On Alienation).

Marx theory on theory of value, Karl Marx's labor theory of value asserts that the value of an object is solely a result of the labor expended to produce it. According to this theory, the more labor or labor time that goes into an object, the more it is worth. Marx defined value as "consumed labor time", and stated that "all goods, considered economically, are only the product of labor and cost nothing except labor (Wollstein). In other words, Value is nothing but that fragment of the total labour potential existing in a given society in a certain period (e.g. a year or a month) which is used for the output of a given commodity, at the average social productivity of labour existing then and there, divided by the total number of these commodities produced. and expressed in hours (or minutes), days, weeks, months of labour.

Here is an example of how the labor theory of value works: A worker in a factory is given $30 worth of material, and after working 3 hours producing a good, and using $10 worth of fuel to run a machine, he creates a product which is sold for $100. According the Marx, the labor and only the labor of the worker increased the value of the natural materials to $100. The worker is thus justly entitled to a $60...
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