Monday, November 20, 2017

Marx on Contradictions of Capitalism - summary

In the Marxian view, all reality is based on contradictions (see dialectical materialism or Class Conflict).  Capitalism is no exception.  In the Marxian view, the capitalist class becomes the “thesis”.  It creates the proletariat as its “antithesis”.  The two have opposing interests and therefore are in struggle.  Capitalism simplifies the class struggle by reducing the number of classes to two.  Two of the contradictions of capitalism can be noted at this point.

     First, the inherent capitalist drive for expansion leads to an increased demand for labor.  This raises wages causing capitalists to substitute machinery for labor, as noted earlier.  However, surplus value (profit) is drawn from labor.  Surplus value can never be drawn from machinery in this view.  Therefore, the base from which profit can be drawn narrows and the rate of profit falls. The contradiction is that each capitalist is acting in the only way that will maintain profits;  however, by these actions, the rate of profit actually falls. In reality, there is no evidence of a falling rate of profit in capitalist countries.

     Second, the drive for expansion and the use of more machinery lead to larger and larger workplaces.  Workers, whose pay is held at subsistence, are brought-together where they can interact.  The use of machinery leads to increased specialization and division of labor, generating more alienation.  The falling rate of profit requires that capitalists intensify their exploitation of labor (such as by running the assembly line faster and faster).  This requires more supervision and a more authoritarian factory.  The workers become more and more miserable.  Karl Marx called this the law of increasing immiseration of the proletariat. By bringing workers together in a situation in which they are more and more miserable, it is much easier for someone to channel their anger and organize them into a strong political force. (Remember that the proletariat is becoming larger and larger.)  Capitalism has created the seeds of its own destruction!


For more on Karl Marx and Marxism:

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