Harrison, Lexi, Stephen, Karl Marx: Selected Writings Presentation Notes


1. What is the nature of the argument?+

  • Defining important terms regarding capitalism and commodification.
    • Productivity (230)
      • Use-Value (220), Exchange Value, Labor Value
    • Money (249)
      • The natural form of this commodity thereby becomes the socially recognized equivalent form. Through the agency of the social process it becomes the specific social function of the commodity which has been set apart to be the universal equivalent. It thus becomes-money” (246).
      • the wearing of one’s wealth/hoarding of value.
      • Fetishzation of money (252).
    • Capital (255)
      • (288)
    • Labor Power (265)
      • treat his labour-power as his own property, his own commodity, and he can do this only by placing it at the disposal of the buyer” (265).
      • labor uses someone up and a portion of their human essence then there is something problematic that people work hard and are alienated and worse off as they have contributed to the quality of life of humanity and only get profit of what can get from the market.
      • Value of subsistence (270)
    • Nature (274)
      • “He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to is own body, his arms, legs, head and hands, appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own needs” (274).
    • Capitalist Production (294)
      • “The capital-relation presupposes a complete separation between the workers and the ownership of the conditions for the realization of their labor” (295).
    • Private Property (297)
      • “The private property of the woker in his means of production is the foundation of small-scale industry, small-scale industry is a necessary condition for the development of social produciton and of the free invidiuality of the worker himself” (298).
    • Surplus Value (293)
      • not always same as the labor value-trying to make money rather than working. Underestimates that administration and advertising is a type of work, just focuses on labor.
  • history: implementation of man using nature as an object of labor, like the creation of stone implements and weapons (276).
  • Dialectic: strong historical materialism, and is also inductive in this section when he defines concepts and builds upon them.
  • Both inductive and deductive. Deductive in his theories that he uses to deconstruct history through the lense of historical materialism, inductive in his affirmation of said theories through identification of examples. Each chapter inductively proves historical materialism in different sectors of the state and economy.
  • Scholars, followers, players in the political economy

2. Who/What is the argument against?

  • The industrial revolution, England, Academic affirmation of the status quo and economists

3. What is the argument?

  • Commodification of human labor
  • Value of labor and goods and how labor determines the value of an item
  • Use-value, Exchange-value, Labor-value
  • Bourgeoisie v. Proletariat
  • Wave Labor vs. Labor Power
    • renting self out by working (Kant, don’t have a full civic personality if are a “slave” to labor)
    • treating self like an item: a means and a market place with labor and people are commodifications
    • Wage labor jobs: dehumanizing (Hegel: not consistent, he performs the ideological justification of civil society and it is a sham notion of equality. If own nothing and have to live, can only sell labor power).
  • to show the effects of commodification on society and individuals
  • People making the law wouldn’t have invested interest: capitalist society will permeate policies
  • Subsistence
    • labor power reduced to subsistence: the cost of labor is the cost of production, then capitalism requires pay worker least possible so item can sell more (270)

           i. human nature: what theory is developed, what assumptions are made?

  • Humans fetishize commodities (230)
    • “The mystical character of the commodity does not therefore arise from its use-value” (231).
    • the money form-which conceals the social character of private labour and the social relations between the individual workers, by making those relations appear as relations between material objects, instead of revealing them plainly” (236).

           ii. ethics: how does ethics figure in the argument?  is the author engaging in moral condemnation or moral prescription, if so, on the basis of what sort of ethical theory?

  • Indignation surrounding worker’s sacrifice in creation of goods
  • un-equality of labor due to commodification does not engage the individual in benefiting from their own products and labor.
  • Individual workers are part of a social community
  • World is shaped

           iii. politics: Politics is the reflection of the economic structure in society

3a. What does the author regard as the distinctive problems and possibilities in the Modern Age

  • “But individuals are dealt with here only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, the bearers of particular class-relations and interests” (219). People are becoming defined by their place in society and the means of production.

3b. How does the author address liberty, equality, and fraternity?

  • Liberty: Humans are not free if they are forced to work at subsistence level or die. This is slavery. Ch 6, Pg 265 - the commodification of labour-power, the worker as commodity
  • Equality: Hence, equal right here is still in principle— bourgeois right, although principle and practice are no longer at loggerheads, while the exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange only exists on the average and not in the individual case. In spite of this advance, this equal right is still constantly encumbered by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labour they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labour. But one man is superior to another physically or mentally and so supplies more labour in the same time, or can work for a longer time; and labour, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labour. It recognises no class distinctions, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognises the unequal individual endowment and thus productive capacity of the workers as natural privileges. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right.
  • Fraternity: Robinson Crusoe, family division of labor means that there is no need for capital as people aren’t alienated from the fruits of their labor because produce own goods. “All Robinson’s products were exclusively the result of his own personal labour and they were therefore directly object so utility for him personally” (75)
    • “Being a seller and being a buyer are therefore not fixed roles, but constantly attach themselves to different persons in the course of the circulation of commodities” (253). Indivdiuals create capital by interacting.

- how does the author prioritize them.

4. what are the strengths of the author's argument?

  • Yes, successfully explains the process of commodification and labor in society and the effects to the role of the individual.

5. what areeaknesses of te author's argument?

  • Underestimation of non-labor work (e.g. the necessity of administration / management)