Marx On Alienation

In Circulation the capitalist and the worker confront each other only as the vendors of commodities, but owing to the specific, opposed nature of the commodities they sell to each other, the worker necessarily enters the process of production as a component of the use-value, the real existence, of capital, its existence as value. And this remains true even though that relationship only constitutes itself within the process of production, and the capitalist, who exists only as a potential purchaser of labor, becomes a real capitalist only when the worker, who can be turned into a wage-laborer only through the sale of his capacity for labor, really does submit to the commands of capital. The functions fulfilled by the capitalist are no more than functions of capital –  vis. the valorization of value by absorbing living labor – executed consciously and willingly. The capitalist functions only as personified capital, capital as a person, just as the worker is no more than labor personified. That labor is for him just effort and torment, whereas it belongs to the capitalist as a substance that creates and increases wealth, and in fact it is an element of capital, incorporated into it in the production process as its living, variable component.

Hence the rule of the capitalist over the worker is the rule of things over man, of dead labor over the living, of the product over the producer. For the commodities that become the instruments of rule over the workers (merely as the instruments of the rule of capital itself) are mere consequences of the process of production; they are its products. Here it is not the worker who makes use of the means of production, but the means of production that make use of the worker. Living labor does not realize itself in objective labor which thereby becomes its objective organ, but instead objective labor maintains and fortifies itself by drawing off living labor; it is thus that it becomes value valorizing itself, capital, and functions as such. The means of production thus become no more than leeches drawing off as large an amount of living labor as they can. Living labor for its part ceases to by anything more than a means by which to increase, and thereby capitalize, already existing values.

What we are confronted by here is the alienation of man form his own labor. To that extent the worker stands on a higher plane than the capitalist from the outset, since the latter has his roots in the process of alienation and finds absolute satisfaction in it whereas right from the start the worker is a victim who confronts it as a rebel and experiences it as a process of enslavement. At the same time the process of production is a real labor process and to the extent to which that is the case and the capitalist has a definite function to preform within it as supervisor and director, his activity acquires a specific, many-sided content. But the labor process itself is no more than the instrument of the valorization process, just as the use-value of the product is nothing but a repository of its exchange-value. The self-valorization of capital – the creation of surplus-value – is therefore the determining, dominating and overriding purpose of the capitalist; it is the absolute motive and content of his activity. And in fact it is no more than the rationalized motive and aim of the hoarder – a highly impoverished and abstract content which makes it plain that the capitalist is just as enslaved by the relationships of capitalism as is his opposite pole, the worker, albeit in a quite a different manner.

If we consider the continuity of the process of production, the laborer’s wage is only that part of the product constantly produced by the worker, who converts it into the means of subsistence and hence into the means for the preservation and increase of the labor-power which capital requires to valorize value for itself, i.e. for its own life-process. The maintenance and increase of labor-power appear therefore merely as the reproduction and extension of its own conditions of reproduction and accumulation. This constant sale and purchase of labor-power and as constant entrance of the commodity produced by the worker himself as buyer of his labor-power and as constant capital, appear merely as forms which mediate his subjugation by capital. Thus, while the worker produces his produce as capital, the capitalist reproduces the worker as a wage-laborer.

Living labor is no more than the means of maintaining and increasing the objective labor and making it independent of him. This form of mediation is intrinsic to the this mode of production. It perpetuates the relation between capital as the buyer and the worker as the seller of labor. It is a form, however, which can be distinguished only formally form other more direct forms of the enslavement of labor and the ownership of it as perpetrated by the owners of the means of production. Through the mediation of this sale and purchase it disguises the real transaction, and the perpetual dependence which is constantly renewed, by presenting it as nothing more than a financial relationship. Not only are the conditions of this commerce constantly reproduced, but the object which the one must sell and which the other uses in order to buy are themselves the result of the process. The constant renewal of the relationship of sale and purchase merely ensures the perpetuation of the specific relationship of dependency, endowing it with the deceptive illusion of a transaction, of a contract between equally free and equally matched commodity owners. This initial relationship itself now appears as an integral feature of the rule of objectified labor over living labor that is created in capitalist production.

On closer inspection it becomes evident that capital itself regulates this production of labor-power, the production of the mass of men it intends to exploit in accordance with its own needs. Hence capital not only produces capital, it produces a growing mass of men, the material through which alone it can function as additional capital. Therefore, it is not only true to say that labor produces on a constantly increasing scale the conditions of labor in opposition to itself in the form of capital, but equally, capital produces on a steadily increasing scale the productive wage-laborers it requires. Labor produces the conditions of its production in the form of capital, and capital produces labor, i.e. as wage-labor, as the means towards its own realization as capital. Capitalist production is not merely the reproduction of the relationship: it is the reproduction on a steadily increasing scale. And just as the social productive forces of labor develop in step with the capitalist mode of production , so too the heaped-up wealth confronting the worker grows apace and confronts him as capital, as wealth that controls him. The world of wealth expands and faces him as an alien world dominating him, and as it does so his subjective poverty, his need and dependence grow larger in proportion. His deprivation and its plenitude match each other exactly. And at the same time, there is a corresponding increase in the mass of this living means of production of capital: the laboring proletariat.

Thus a complete economic revolution is brought about. On the one hand, it creates the real condition for the domination of labor by capital, perfecting the process and providing it with the appropriate framework. On the other hand, by evolving conditions of production and communication and productive forces of labor antagonistic to the workers involved in them, this revolution creates the real premises of a new mode of production, one that abolishes the contradictory form of capitalism. It thereby creates the material basis of a newly shaped social process and hence of a new social formation.

*edited together out of the Appendix of Capital Vol.1 by Karl Marx

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