Marx on Capital, Capitalists, and Proletariat
According to Karl Marx, under capitalism, there are two main groups: the proletariat, who are wage-laborers (working class), and the capitalists, who own the means of production (such a factories). Whereas workers are wholly dependent upon wages, capitalists are dependent upon money invested to create more money . Capital is unique to the circulation of commodities under capitalism, being the most important means of production in a capitalist society. Under non-capitalist forms of exchange, commodities are traded for money, which is then traded for another commodity. The primary reason for exchange is to obtain a commodity for use. Under capitalism, on the other hand, money is used to purchase a commodity, which is then sold to create a greater amount of money. The purpose of this form of exchange according to Marx is to create greater and greater sums of money.
Marx on Exploitation
Exploitation is a set of social relations on which capitalism is built. Marx argues that capitalists exploit workers by paying them less in wages than the value they produce. While a worker may earn eight dollars a day in wages, s/he may produce ten dollars a day worth of value, creating what Marx called surplus value which is key for the accumulation of capital. Capital grows by exploiting workers to generate ever greater amounts of surplus value, usually by lowering workers’ wages. In addition, capitalists constantly compete with one another over capital by finding new ways to generate profit and surplus value in order to maintain an edge. Marx calls this drive the general law of capitalist accumulation. Capitalism is not the only historical epoch in which individuals are exploited, but it is the only one in which the mechanisms of exploitation are hidden behind independent, objectified, and reified structures, such as the market.