Table of Contents
- Labour division through industrialization and capitalism
- Downfall of capitalism
Karl Marx is a renowned German philosopher, sociologist, economist and political theorist. His ideas have a huge impact on modern day sociology, transformed the study of history and also have a profound effect on literature, arts, and philosophy. In 1848 he published the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” which had a clear political philosophical goal which was to get freedom for the working class in a capitalist society.
The intellectuals consider the capitalist system to be an exploitative economic system which comprises of private proprietorship of assets and means of production, the manufacture of goods/services which profit or generate income, the accrual of capital or resources, competitive markets, voluntary trading, and labor paid in wages. This term is applied to a range of many different historic cases, in different times, places, heritage and politics.
He considered capitalism as a very progressive historical stage which would eventually deteriorate due to internal conflicts and would then be replaced by socialism. Marxists describe capital as “a social, economic relation” amid people, rather than amid people and things. That is the reason they want to abolish capital. Normative Marxism believes that a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism would happen and it would then lead to socialism. And sooner or later it would transition into communism when class resentments and the state would end.
Labour division through industrialization and capitalism
At the time of industrialization, Marx was residing in England where he himself experienced the developing tension in the air as a result of social inequality around the globe. According to him, it was because of industrialization and capitalism which led to division of classes. Because of capitalism, he had noted a newly formed class which consisted of the factory workers. These workers were, in his perspective, people who were significantly reduced to mere armies of production. Never before, at such low cost, had many products and services been generated and the difference of cost was highlighted as added value which used to disappear in the accounts of owners only and none of the workers were benefitting from it.
Marx believed that the whole idea of exploitation was not limited to a capitalist society, rather it existed in all class based systems, being most prominent in feudal societies. Apparently in feudal systems, the workers do use a portion of their power to benefit themselves, while another portion benefits the feudal lord. Contrastingly, under slavery, it seems the only person benefitting is the owner or master, although the truth is that even slaves do make use of their labor to survive and sustain themselves. However, it is interesting to note that in a capitalist society, it seems as if the workers only work for their own benefit by actually selling their labor power to the business owners or capitalists independently like a contractor. (Cohen 1978, 332–3)
Karl Marx thought that people who were doing labor work were not doing it with their own choice or for entirely for personal gain. He said that in essence it was not completely voluntary because they were out of options since they did not have enough resources of means of production to create their own business. They only did it for sustenance and were in return because the owners were in a privileged position, they exploited them by treating them inadequately and paying them minimum wages. The value that they added the business was appropriated by the capitalists. (Zwolinski, 2017)
Considering all these facts Marx was fully convinced with the idea of capitalism is a curse to society. All these things were putting value to the product, rather than producer. The society also valued only the products and not the labor involved. Only one class was getting richer by the day. In third part of “Das Kapital” Marx stated that there are two things emerging; commodity and capital fetish. Later, he termed it as exploitation.
Downfall of capitalism
In his third edition of “Das Kapital”, Marx predicted that capitalism would eventually collapse. Factors he mentioned for downfall of capitalism were firstly, that how the giant businesses would conquer the smaller ones. He called this concentration low. The big companies would get in the race of competition to produce at the lowest cost to stay longer in the market. For that, the capitalist would then reinvest in the business from the profit they got from added production which would also result in increased size of business. It would further lead to them hiring more workforce/labor resulting in increased employment. This means that more people would be under their possession and this would eventually lead to a greater devalued class of workers. (Marx, K. 1867)
In Marx’s vision, the overall dynamic of capitalist system would eventually deplete the lower working class and would result in the creation of social circumstances for a revolution. Private possession of assets and their distribution is seen by him as constructing a sort of dependence of the lower classes on the ruling class, and in the long run it would cause the restriction of natural human freedom. (Zwolinski, 2017)
The supporters of Karl Marx’s theory are called Marxists. In their arguments, they mainly claim that capitalism is basically a very inconsistent system characterized by repetitive crises that have a tendency towards further relentlessness. They say that because of this “tendency” of the system to fall apart, joined with a constant socialization process in the market all over the world which connects all the labor force, there is a very suitable setting for revolutionary change. Capitalism is perceived as just one of the many stages in the progression of the economic system.
I think that as a philosopher, Marx's ideas still flourish. They have helped to alter our understanding of our own nature, and permanently expanded our thoughts of what it means to have freedom. His claims that capitalism as a system is unreasonable and that it controls human beings in a way which undermines their self control of their life is still valid today. However, I do find that the task of building a free and equal society for everyone is much more challenging than Marx ever thought.