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Ethical Dilemma of Karl Marx's Capitalism Theory: Modern Issue of Income Inequality

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Karl Marx And His View of Class Division

In the Straits Times article titled “Dreams ripped at the seams: India’s ‘invisible’ home garment workers exploited by fashion brands” highlights the issue of the exploitation in the fashion brands industry. In order to keep up with the demand for fashion branded clothes, sweatshops have come up with a solution that will benefit them and can increase production. They have outsourced the production of garments to households, where workers can now work from home. However, the downside of working from home is that these workers will not be able to reap the benefits that workers in the factories get such as bonuses. Marx believed that work, at its best, is what makes us human. It allows us to live, be creative and flourish. However, under capitalism, he saw workers alienated from each other and the product of their labour. The situation that Ms Sekar is in, resonates clearly with Marx’s theory. She is restricted to where she works due to her having to take care of her family and the consequence, she faces is that she gets extremely exploited. Capitalists rather earn profit than only the replacement rate to pay for the cost of capital this can be seen from “the average price of wage-labour is minimum wage… the wage-labourer appropriates by the means of his labour, merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence”. Capitalists do not view workers as human beings, they are viewed as an abstract idea whose stomachs need to be filled, hence minimum wage is suffice to keep them alive and working for them. Marx’s idea in the “Manifesto of Communism” is that “the price of commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production” workers do not receive the full value of their labour because capitalists view them as also a commodity of the market and hence their market value will fluctuate. Marx offers a solution to bring equality amongst the different classes in society “The distinguishing feature of Communism is …the abolition of bourgeois property.” This is significant to note as with the abolition of the bourgeois property, there will no longer be minimum wage labour Marx believes that the proletarians (workers under sweatshops) have to unite and overthrow the capitalist system and own the factors of production in order to remove the bourgeoisie class from exploiting the lower classes.

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Solution According to Marx

In the 2019 new article, the issue of income inequality between the bourgeoisie class and the workers is very real. The global retailers are the bourgeoisie in this situation as they have the power to exploit workers to do their bidding. The global retailers enjoy large profits due to the inexpensive cost of the clothes material as well as the workers getting underpaid. Due to these workers having low skill levels, all they can offer is their labour. This makes the workers powerless and vulnerable to the garment industry as they will do anything to earn a living to support their families. The article states that “up to 19%” of the workers are 10-18 years old, this might count as modern-day slavery and children will be unable to reach their full potential. This shows that global retailers do not care about the welfare of their workers as children should not be working for such long hours, they should be in the school picking up skills that can aid them in the future. This agrees with Marx theory that “differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class”. As long as they are a lower class than the bourgeoisie, no matter their age, they are viewed as nothing but a means of production to the bourgeoisie. The welfare of adults working at these home-based sweatshops is also unaccounted for as homeworkers have “virtually no avenue to seek redress for abusive or unfair conditions”. The workers have basically signed their livelihood away when they join these industries. Marx brings up two different schools of thought between the bourgeois society and the communist society in terms of accumulated labour. In terms of the bourgeois society, “living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour.” While in terms of the communist society it is to “widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.” The problem could be better approached if the lower-class Indians where better educated. From the blog posted in 2017 by Ananye Krishna, who teaches underprivilege students, revealed that the Indian government schools are in a very poor condition. There is no electricity in 40% of the schools, 31% of the teachers are not properly qualified etc, basically there is a poor state of learning. This means that these Indians will never know how they can overwrite the exploitative system they are under unless someone starts a communist revolution for the proletarians. However, if they do try to overthrow the bourgeois supremacy by sweatshops, these Indians might lose out entirely as the sweatshops have other countries in which they can hire sweatshop workers from, some examples are Vietnam, Cambodia etc. where there are low skilled workers who would not mind low paying jobs.

Conclusions

In conclusion, income inequality is very apparent in such industries. These workers are ridiculously underpaid for the amount their garments are being sold at. There are actions which are being put in place to reduce the exploitation of these workers, such as giving them identification numbers such that their work can be accounted for and more benefits, as well as assistance, will be provided to home-based workers. However, this would not stop the bourgeoisie from exploiting them as the bourgeoise have relatively more power and less risk of loosing their capital and assets as compared to the low skilled worker who has no capital and only their labour to sell. Marx states that “there can no longer be any wage-labour when there is no longer any capital” hence these sweatshops and exploited Indian workers should unite and try to centralise all factors of production into the hands of the state instead of the that of the bourgeoisie.

References

  1. Marx, K. (1972). The Communist Manifesto In Robert Tucker (Ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader (pp. 331-362). NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Child labour. (2019).
  2. Retrieved 16 October 2019, from https://theirworld.org/explainers/child-labour Krishna, A. (2017).
  3. The Sorry State of Education in India. Retrieved 28 October 2019, from https://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/the-sorry-state-of-education-in-india/

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