Prof: Good morning.
So we got to the end of Karl
Marx today. And after a long detour we are
finally at the Marx you are probably the most familiar with,
or the kind of Marx you have heard the most about.
The major– my major aim so far
in this course was to shake a little the stereotypes which was
in your head about Marx, to show you that Marx was a
much more complex thinker, full with contradictions,
and in a search for truth. Whether he arrived at truth,
that’s another question, but he was desperately
searching for it. So we went around different
epochs of Marx. Right?
In The Paris
Manuscripts, the first attempt to write a
big work, we saw him as a Hegelian.
The central concept is still
alienation, a Hegelian concept. Then he breaks away. Right?
He turns into a historical
materialist in The German Ideology,
but does not quite get it yet. Right?
Too much under the influence of
Adam Smith. The division of labor is still
important and private property does not get the centrality of
the analysis, what it’s supposed to have for
the theory. Then you read the
Grundrisse, in which he kind of–now
private property is in the central place,
but he tries to bring back the idea of alienation.
And he also considers that in
The German Ideology he became too deterministic;
history is more open than he may have believed.
And then finally he finishes
the book–at least the first volume of the book he always
wanted to write–Das Kapital.
And in the Kapital,
only the first volume was finished by him,
and it was the only first volume what he thought was ready
for publication, and came out in 1867.
He offers a very coherent,
very cogent argument. It’s not a messy text like the
Paris Manuscript or The German Ideology or
the Grundrisse. Marx felt this is ready to be
printed; and it was ready to be printed
for sure. And this is now his major
contribution, the theory of exploitation.
That is undoubtedly Marx’s
major contribution to social theory.
Whether it is right or wrong,
this is another question. I think there are few people
who would accept his theory of exploitation the way how it was
formulated. But there are still quite a few
theorists around here who are attracted to the idea of
exploitation and try to re-conceptualize the notion of
exploitation in one way or another.
And it’s also something which
has very much entered the public discourse.
You yourself use it.
Occasionally you feel I have
been exploited. And it actually has quite a bit
to do with what Marx thought about exploitation,
when you say, “This is an exploitative
So the term is with us.
Okay, then of course in order
to have the theory of exploitation,
this is necessary for Marx to have a tight conception of the
theory of classes. And the text I asked you to
read for his theory of classes is an old text,
much precedes the theory of exploitation,
The Communist Manifesto. It’s also only a pamphlet,
it is a political pamphlet. It’s not aimed for a scholarly
audience. It does not argue its case in
the scholarly way, as most of the argument is put
forward in the chapters I asked you to read from Kapital.
But it has very important
theoretical insights. In fact, though Marx does not
have the theory of exploitation, he still comes very close to a
mature class theory. What is interesting though,
today we identify Marx as certainly one of the great
theorists who created the idea of class.
The other one is,
by the way, Max Weber. What is also interesting about
both of them, that they never wrote any
coherent analysis what class is. Well in The Communist
Manifesto, Marx and Engels write a fair
deal about class, but they don’t have the
conceptual apparatus yet really to do it right.
And by the time he has,
after he finished the first volume of Kapital,
he actually makes an attempt, what eventually was published
by Engels as the third volume of Kapital.
And here, in chapter 52,
he said, “Now this is time to write my theory of
class.” He writes a page and a half,
and then he abandons it. He said, “I can’t do it;
too difficult.” Right? So it leaves to
you–right?–and the next text– test in this course,
to figure out what the right theory of classes are,
and what’s wrong about it. Right?
In fact, Weber is pretty much
in the same bind. He writes a little more than
one-and-a-half page, but not much more.
We will talk about this when we
come to Max Weber. But classes certainly still do
haunt us. Right?
We cannot get the idea of class
out of our hair. Even in the United States the
notion is around us; though there is no other modern
society which is so free from the idea of class and
exploitation as the US of A. But even in the US of A,
we still talk at least about the middle class.
So the term is not completely
alien from us. Okay, so let’s jump into this,
and let’s do it this time in a reverse order–
that I start with the mature theory,
1867, and then informed by this theory I go back to 1848,
The Communist Manifesto, and deal with this.
So the major themes for the
lecture today is I want to elaborate on the theory of
exploitation in Marx, his idea of classes in history,
and finally to ask the question,
how many classes are there? Marx seems to have
contradictory answers to this question.
And this is certainly a
question which still fascinates people who are studying society,
social stratification or class structure.
Of course the answer seems to
be obvious probably to most of you.
Yeah, in the United States
there is one class, the middle class;
we are all middle class. Right? That’s the typical American
answer to this. But for an analyst it’s a bit
dubious answer; if there are classes,
how on earth there is only one? Anyway, we will talk about this
a great deal. So let’s move to the question
of theory of exploitation. And I will have to start this
with the labor theory of value, and to go back to Adam Smith
and to see how Marx is proceeding.
Then I want to make a step
further, Marx’s distinction between commodity production and
the capitalist mode of production.
This is again taking his point
of departure as Adam Smith’s, Adam Smith’s idea of commercial
society. And what Marx does,
well there are different types of commercial societies.
One he calls the petty
commodity production, and the other one capitalist
mode of production. As we all know,
he never used the term capitalism.
He comes the closest to this
concept by using the term capitalist mode of production.
Neither Smith nor Marx had the
concept of capitalism, as such.
Then in order to understand
what is unique about the capitalist mode of production,
we have to understand Marx’s theory of labor power as a
commodity. And I will explain to you why
this is so central to Marx’s theory of exploitation,
and then Marx’s theory of class.
Okay, so that’s about it.
And now the labor theory of
value. The point of departure is John
Locke and Adam Smith. Right?
As you recall,
already John Locke suggested that all value is created by
labor; or, I mean, he’s a little more
cautious, at least 90% of all value is created by labor.
How on earth he comes up with
this figure? He’s not very accurate about
this, not very forthcoming. Right?
Social scientists today would
be a bit upset. “Where do you get this
number from?” Right?
He doesn’t tell us.
But the bottom line is well
clearly–right?–his wonderful proposition.
“The water in the well
belongs to everybody. But who doubts that those who
fetch it–the water–that water belongs to him or her?
Because it is his or her
product, labor product. And what is the value of that
water, what you are carrying away from the well,
what you did fetch from the well?
Exactly the amount of labor you
had to put in, in order to fetch that.”
A nice theory of
property–right?–and a nice labor theory of value,
though it’s not quite called this way by John Locke.
But so is by Adam Smith.
And, as you recall,
Adam Smith claims at one point, “All value is created by
labor.” Well but of course Adam Smith,
when he comes to explaining the distribution of wealth,
takes a step back from this proposition.
And we discussed that when we
discussed Adam Smith. Let me just remind you what the
step backward. Right?
The tension–right?–in Adam
Smith was that on one hand he claims all value is created by
labor, and then when it comes to the
question but how is wealth or income distributed.
He said, “Well it ought to
be distributed between the three factors of
production–right?–labor, capital and land;
wages, profit and rent. And they have to be equally
distributed in a just way, between these three factors of
And I think you remember we
clarified that this is not a contradiction in Adam Smith.
Somehow when he’s claiming that
all value is created by labor, he almost has a theory of human
That in the state of nature,
when there is no private property of land,
and there is no accumulation of capital, then all value is
created by labor. But this is just in this
imagined–right?–natural conditions of existence.
In all complex societies
private ownership exists and private–and capital is being
accumulated. And then, you know,
in order to get production going, the capitalist has to
rent–give capital, advance capital,
to the worker. Without the advancement of
capital, the laborer would not work.
And therefore the owner of
capital has due claim for part of the value which is created in
the process of production. Because it took
risks–right?–by offering its capital,
and it had to supervise the labor process,
and wants to have compensated for its risk taking and its
supervision. And you could not operate
without land, without a site.
All activities need a site,
and if somebody owns that site, they’ll have to be compensated
that you are on the site; and that is rent.
Well this is a little more
problematic in Adam Smith. You know, for capital he makes
a pretty strong case, you know, why it is fair for
the capitalist to collect profit.
For the owner of the land,
he–they are collecting rent. That’s a little more
problematic, whether rent is also something,
a just income. And we all have a little
unease–right?–when we are talking about rent,
or when we are talking about, for instance,
rent-seeking behavior. Right?
That sounds a bad behavior,
if somebody’s seeking rent. Right?
The reason is simple;
because we associate in our mind rent-seeking behavior with
Rent-seeking behavior comes
from monopolistic ownership, and we don’t particularly like
We want competition,
free competition–right? Free markets,
and not monopolies. Right?
Monopoly’s a bad word.
Anyway, this is a little of a
problem. But nevertheless I think his
fundamental point, in Adam Smith,
that there is some fair distribution of income between
the three factors of production, because they are all necessary
for the production for the production process.
I just suggested that,
in fact, there are still people, scholars,
who are seriously interested in the theory of exploitation
today. They usually abandon the labor
theory of value. I have not met yet an economist
or political economist, or even a sociologist or
political scientist, who still believes in the labor
theory of value. Right?
So now therefore when they try
to construct a theory of exploitation,
it is more around the theory of rent, rather than labor theory
of value. Okay, then let’s move further
and let’s try to figure out how–what Marx does to Adam
Smith, and how he radicalizes Adam Smith.
Marx does not want to go the
Adam Smithsian way, to say there is a fair
distribution of wealth between the three factors of production.
First of all he asks the
question, okay, what is value?
And he defines value with this
very simple equation. C is constant capital. Right?
Constant capital means the
capital which is advanced by the capitalist in order to make the
labor process possible. Constant capital can of course
involve the improvement on the land, on the site what you are
using for your production process.
If there is a building put up
on a site, the cost of the building will
have to be returned in the process of production–
right?–and therefore it will also contribute to the value of
the product. V is variable capital.
Variable capital means wages.
And S is what he calls surplus
product. This is–you produce a product,
you sell it. It is not enough for you,
in order to be and stay in business,
if all what you collect a return of the capital you
advanced for the production, and the wages what you paid to
your laborers to complete the process.
If you would do that,
you would be done. Right?
All smart entrepreneurs want to
generate some surplus. They want to get a little more
than they started with. Otherwise why on earth would
they waste their time on this? Right?
Why on earth would they take
risks? Why would they spend their time
supervising the process? Why would they start worrying
whether this will work out or not?
They need a surplus.
So therefore that is the value
of the product. Now, and here it is. Right?
Constant capital is investment.
And here there is an
agreement–right?–with Adam Smith.
You have–right?–factors of
production. But Marx wants to be
consistent–consistent in saying that all value is being created
by labor. And he said,
“But what is constant capital?
Where does constant capital
come from?” He said it is coming from labor.
It is accumulated labor.
It is labor which was actually
performed before capital accumulation,
was appropriated by the capitalist,
and it is being now used as constant capital.
So there is,
one argument is, all capital was at one point a
product of labor, and that is what is your
investment. As I said, variable capital are
wages. And then there is surplus
product. And that surplus product,
Marx argued, is also the outcome of the
labor process and the product of the laborer as such.
So Marx starts to shy away from
the idea that there is a kind of fair distribution between
capital, land and labor. He said, “No,
I mean, all value is being created by labor.”
So this is his kind of
reconstruction of the labor theory of value,
and leads us into the idea of exploitation.
I will labor on this in a
minute, to try to put more meat on it.
But the essence of exploitation
is that what the capitalist will advance is actually labor which
was appropriated from the workers in an earlier cycle of
the production, and then the capitalist will
pocket the surplus, will not give any to the worker;
a worker will be satisfied with the wages.
And this is where exploitation
comes from. Right?
Exploitation somehow has to do
with what the capitalist had to put into the production process.
Constant capital and variable
capital, and how much he pocketed after the process was
over. So there is no–nothing fair
about this, in Marx’s view. This is–right?–the big
difference between social democratic trade unions who
wants to keep the capitalist system going;
they just want to have collective bargaining and
negotiation– right?–with the employers,
so to have a reasonable level of profit to the capitalist and
a reasonably high level of wages for the workers.
Marx said, “Well there is
nothing reasonable. This is a system,
an exploitative system.” Well, and this is what I said:
“The rate of profit will be the surplus divided by the
expenditures.” Okay, let’s move a little
further and makes– and let’s have this important
contribution what Marx makes between petty commodity
production and capitalist mode of production,
right? It’s trying to sort of break up
Adam Smith’s idea of commercial society or market economy or
capitalism. Marx seemed to have a more
complex notion. Well he said this is petty
commodity production, and he again offers us a little
equation here. He said petty commodity
production begins with a commodity,
and then you go to the marketplace,
sell this commodity for money, in order to purchase a
commodity. This itself is commercial
society. This is commodity production.
But it is not capitalism. Right?
This is why Marx,
for instance, was a bit uncertain,
and he’s rambling about this a little.
Is the United States,
in the early nineteenth century, really a capitalist
economy? And he was puzzled by this
because the overwhelming majority of Americans were
actually involved in self-employment.
It was a highly commercialized
society, a highly developed market economy,
but there was relatively little private capital accumulation.
Most people were farmers or
self-employed artisans or merchants.
And what did they do?
They did produce commodities.
You were a shoemaker,
you produced a shoe. But you were specializing in
shoemaking, and you did not bother you try to also raise
chickens and to have eggs. So you needed eggs.
So you brought shoes on the
market, you sold the shoe for money,
and then you went to the farmer and you bought egg,
so you could have your scrambled eggs.
Okay, that is petty commodity
And the purpose of
production–this is a very important proposition by
Marx–is satisfaction of needs. Right?
You are operating,
you are producing stuff because you have certain needs what you
want to satisfy, and the production of some
good, well in excess of what you need,
has the purpose to satisfy other needs what you have,
and money is simply a mediator to make sure that different
types of needs are being properly exchanged on the
Now Marx here is way beyond
Marx of the Paris Manuscripts–
right?–who tried to identify markets and commodity exchange
as the source of alienation. There is nothing alienating
about this process. Right?
Now but then he said well
capitalism is a different ballgame.
We are talking about a
capitalist economy when the cycle starts with money.
And though, I mean,
the chapters you have read, Marx tries to discipline
himself. He tries to really behave and
to be a scholar. Right?
But he can’t resist. Right?
His emotions–right?–and his
values are too strong. So he said, “Your
moneybag,” talking about the capitalists.
He should not have said so.
He could have done this coolly,
objectively, simply to say, “Well,
we have an economic system in which we have–
right?–people who accumulated capital,
and they are entering the marketplace.
And what do they do?
They produce commodities.
And why do they do so?
Because they want to have more
money; that’s it.”
And I would say this is bingo.
I mean, the comparison between
the two is really capturing, in a very powerful
way–right?–the emergence what we understand a capitalist
economy– right?–as distinct simply from
a commercial society. I think this is a very,
very important and very insightful, very simple,
very precise, and very persuasive argument.
Now let me just say a few more
words about this. Why is this so?
Why does a capitalist need more
money than it started the process?
And I will get into it a bit
later in more details. Well there are very good
reasons for it. One reason we already mentioned.
Why should the capitalist
bother–right?–advancing capital and taking risks,
unless it is compensated by more money?
And that’s in itself a good
enough reason. But there is an even more
important reason. We are on a competitive
marketplace; in a competitive marketplace,
in a capitalist economy– which in Marx’s own words is
the most dynamic economy in human history–
there is improvement in technologies.
The capitalist will create more
money because it will have to reinvest this money in the
production process. It has to improve its
technology; it if would stop to do so,
the competition would wipe it out.
So the capitalist has to
collect–right?–more money than it started the production
process. Even the most altruistic
capitalist has to collect more money at the end of the process.
Even the capitalist who said,
“I’m such a good man. All what I’m doing is to
creating jobs for those poor, poor people,
that they can have a decent living and a nice suburban home.
And I don’t want anything in
exchange for it. I do it out of altruism.”
Okay, let’s imagine our
altruistic moneybag. Right?
Still the poor guy does not
have a chance. It has to collect more money
because otherwise next year he will not be around any longer.
He cannot be altruistic any
longer because the competition will wipe him out.
That’s the argument.
So now here comes Marx.
He said, “This is a big
change, because now the purpose of
production is not satisfaction of needs,
but it is really a generation of profit,
which is inevitable because competition among
capitalists.” Now comes a big puzzle.
Where on earth do more money
comes from? How is it possible that the
capitalist goes out with money, buys commodities,
and gets more money at the end? Is the capitalist cheating us?
Buys cheap and sells dear?
He said, “Well this is
impossible. If there would be a capitalist
who would buy cheap and sell dear,
and would pocket a profit this way,
there will be others who will say, ‘Well I will compete and I
will sell it less expensively, and I will sell more,
and I will create more profit, and we’ll push these
artificially high prices down. There is supply and demand
which sets the prices’.” So that more money cannot come
out of cheating. Right?
It simply cannot come out
simply for circulation. It somehow has to come out from
the production. Now how can it happen that more
money is created? And this is where the idea of
labor power as a commodity comes in.
What the capitalist does is
buys from the marketplace a specific commodity,
and this specific commodity is labor market.
And labor market,
so Marx argues, is that commodity–
the only commodity–which actually can produce a higher
value when it is consumed than its own value.
In every other
input–right?–raw material, the amount of labor which was
put into that raw material, where in a production process
you consume it, that is being transferred into
value of the new product. So you are producing a
refrigerator, you need steel or aluminum to
produce it; the value which was put into
the production of steel or aluminum will be carried over,
exactly the same amount, into the refrigerator you
produce. So it cannot create more value.
What can create–the only
commodity which produces more–is labor power as such.
Well, and this is also
important, that Marx suggests therefore what the laborer has
to sell cannot be labor, it must be labor power.
Well you may be–Talmudistic
stuff–right?–this twisting words.
But it isn’t.
I think there’s an important
idea he said. He said if you would sell
labor, then– and if John Locke was right and
all value is created by the laborer and belongs to the
laborer– then the capitalist would have
to cheat you. Right?
Would not be able to sell–give
you the price of your labor; could not have a surplus value
or a profit otherwise. Therefore the capitalist will
have to buy labor power, the capacity of work.
And Marx insists we have to
think about a system in which the capitalist price pays the
proper price– the exact price,
the market price, the right market price–
for labor power. The worker is not cheated;
the worker is exploited, but that’s not cheating,
right? So why?
What is so unique about the
labor power? Right?
And let me just emphasize,
it’s very, very important for these chapters what you have
read. That those are always
equivalents which have to exchange each other at the
marketplace. No cheating.
The worker is not being cheated.
It gets the proper price for
this labor power. So but what is the price of the
labor power? It’s exactly like the price of
any other commodity; the price of its reproduction.
How much labor is necessary to
reproduce that commodity. If labor power is a commodity,
the price of the labor power is exactly how much is necessary to
reproduce that labor power. It involves–right?–the cost
of your housing, the cost of your living,
and the extended reproduction of labor power.
It involves that you have to
raise children. It involves education;
you know, human capital investment.
This all will have to be
compensated for the laborer. But if it is compensated,
then the laborer is compensated for its laboring capacities,
labor power, will work under the supervision
of the capitalist, and the capitalist will make
sure that the laborer, after the costs of the
reproduction of labor power are covered,
will work another three or four or five hours,
under the supervision of the capitalist,
and start producing surplus value for the capitalist,
or profit for the capitalist. Right?
That is–right?–a stroke of
the genius. Right?
That’s the big solution what
he’s offering. And this is why I said though
there is a heavy–of course he hates capitalism,
of course he hates exploitation.
But if you look at the logic of
the analysis, this is pretty cool-headed
analysis and does not imply value judgments.
Does not imply moral judgment.
You can go through of this to
say, “Yes. Why?
That’s it, that’s how the
system works.” He does hate it,
and as I said he cannot stop, and expresses it.
Okay, let me talk about classes
very briefly. And now we are back to The
Communist Manifesto. And there are really a couple
of issues here. He’s talking about classes as a
trans-historical category, which in a way is contradictory
to the argument of Das Kapital.
He’s talking about the
bourgeoisie as a new class and as a progressive class.
Now let’s look at this,
classes as a trans-historical category.
This is written almost twenty
years before Das Kapital, without the theory of
exploitation. And he said the history of all
previously existing societies is the history of class struggle.
And you remember I said this
idea is becoming already in The German Ideology,
where he tries to develop these causal mechanisms–
right?–which explains evolution in history.
And this is class struggle all
The struggle of the slaves
against the slave owners, the serfs against the landlord,
and finally it will be the struggle of the proletariat
against the bourgeoisie. That’s the idea. Right?
And this is being used in a
trans-historical way. The trouble is that this is
obviously wrong. It’s wrong in terms of Marx’s
own theory of exploitation, and actually it is also
empirically a wrong statement. Right?
Why it is wrong in terms of
Marx? Because it doesn’t fit the
theory of exploitation. Right?
If exploitation is unique for a
capitalist mode of production, reasonably you can talk only
about classes in a capitalist mode of production where the
labor power is free in the dual sense of the term–
legally free and freed from the means of production and
therefore has to sell its labor power.
If this does not exist,
you should not use the term of classes.
So this is a contradiction in
Marx’s own analysis. And, of course,
it is empirically wrong, because it’s true there were
class struggles in history, but was antiquity overthrown by
the revolt of slave owners against the slaves?
No, it wasn’t.
As we have learned from Marx,
it fell because it was invaded by Germanic tribes.
Did, in the South,
slavery end up because the slaves revolted against the
slave owners? No.
Because capitalists from the
North initiated a war against the South.
Did the proletariat ever revolt
to overthrow the bourgeoisie? Not really.
In countries where we are
talking about proletarian revolutions, there were hardly
any proletarians. How many proletarians were
there in China in 1949? It was obviously an
overwhelmingly peasant economy. Right?
Those were peasant masses who
demanded land, who carried out the revolution
under the leadership of Mao Zedong.
Russia, not much different in
1917. So it’s simply not true.
It’s also not true that the
classes which were subordinated earlier will become the new
dominant classes. I mean, the slaves did not
became the landlords, the serfs did not become the
grand bourgeoisie, and the proletariat certainly
did not become a dominant class in China or in the Soviet Union.
This is all wrong. Right?
But the argument is still
interesting. Then most
importantly–right?–the bourgeoisie, he said,
is a new class, and probably,
arguably, the first real class. The landlords were not a class
because they were not constituted in economic terms.
They were constituted
legally–right?–and by customs, rather than simply on market
exchange and market competition. And he also said,
“Well, this bourgeoisie was an extremely revolutionary
force.” Right? “And it actually
transformed the whole society.”
And here I think there is–even
in The Communist Manifesto he contradicts himself.
He said, “Well, you know,
what it did, it transformed occupations,
which were based on honor before, into class
It converted the position of a
doctor or a lawyer or a priest into a kind of class-like
position. Though their power
traditionally was based on honor–they were honorable
positions–now they become positions for which an income is
being paid. All right.
And then he writes–it’s very
important to appreciate that Marx sees that the bourgeoisie
did play an extremely important progressive role in history.
But it’s not only–he hates the
guts of the bourgeoisie for sure,
but he appreciates the contribution of the bourgeoisie
for the development of modern society.
He said, “The bourgeoisie
cannot exist without constantly revolutionalizing the
instruments of production. Right?
“In a scarce one-hundred
years has created more massive and more colossal productive
forces than we have all preceding generations
together.” Well, sounds like somebody who
loves capitalism. Right?
Though of course he doesn’t,
because he thinks it will eventually destroy itself.
Now the last issue is about how
many classes. And well what follows from the
logic of Das Kapital, and I think it is also the
point of Marx in The Communist Manifesto,
there are two classes: the bourgeoisie and the
The moneybags and the workers.
And the workers are exploited
by the moneybags, and that’s the reason for class
struggle, and that’s what eventually will lead to
revolution. But my goodness,
where are the middle classes? There were not all that many
proletarians in 1867. There was no society,
except industrialized Soviet Union, where the majority of the
population was industrial worker, but no ruling class.
They were exploited and
screwed, don’t worry about it. But they were in majority.
But it never happened in
Western societies. We never reached a point–and
then, of course, the industrial working class
has been declining. Now, properly speaking,
the industrial working class in the United States is probably
not more than 15% of the population.
So where is the middle class?
So well I don’t have much time.
Let’s rush through of this.
Well he said there is,
you know, these elemental confrontations between the
bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Well he does not have the
theory of exploitation; he cannot explain it quite well.
And you can do it by now,
armed with Das Kapital. Right?
This is a contradiction
because, you know, the proletariat has no choice
but sell its labor power and be exploited.
And this is,
of course, an irreconcilable contradiction.
And what about the middle class?
Well Marx said
“Yeah…” Well he is–of course even in a
political pamphlet– he is a good enough scientist,
social scientist, that he will say, “No,
there is no middle class.” He knows there is a middle
class– that most people do not belong to the bourgeoisie,
and the proletariat in 1848. And, as I said, they never did.
But he said,
“Well, but look at it historically.
What we call middle class is
disappearing. Look at all those peasants and
small artisans and small merchants,
they will all disappear, and they will all have to
either– very few of them will become
big capitalists, and the overwhelming majority
of them will become working workers.”
Well this is not without
For about a hundred years after
The Communist Manifesto the trend was going in this
Self-employment was shrinking,
and the wage labor was increasing.
In big ways. Right?
In the mid-nineteenth century
70 to 90% of the population was working in agriculture and was
self-employed in other businesses.
Today in the United States the
agricultural population, I don’t know the exactly the
most current figure is somewhere between 1 to 2%.
And self-employment has been
substantially reduced for a very long time.
But things happened what Marx
did not foresee. Right?
And what he did not foresee
were–and I probably will leave it here;
there are two things what he did not really foresee.
One, that actually this trend
turned around. There is no more reduction of
self-employment; in fact, there is some increase
of self-employment. It varies from countries to
countries. In Japan, big way. Right?
In the United States some
improvement in self-employment. But self-employment is
stubbornly resistant. Right?
You have supermarkets,
but you always do have your corner deli shops,
and they don’t seem to be disappearing.
I even take my shoes to a
shoemaker to fix them. Right?
So I mean, I do not throw my
shoes out, I go to a shoemaker and they fix it for $25.00 for
me, and I don’t buy a shoe for 150 bucks.
So, I mean, there is–mass
production has its limits. Right?
There is a quality
production–right?–by artisans, and we want that quality
production. And the more important
argument: in fact, Marx conceptualized wage
laborers as physical laborers. Physical laborers,
as I pointed out, manual laborers,
at least in advanced countries, is this minority of the
society. In the globe,
manufacturing and industrial activity was kind of
decentralized in the world, into the Third World.
But in the United States and in
Continental Europe it’s a thriving minority.
But there is a big new middle
class, and this new middle class are those white collar workers,
like most of you will become and what I am.
I mean, I’m–it’s not
But so that means,
in Marx’s sense, I hardly do any work.
What kind of value do I create?
What does it mean?
I am exploited?
Well I don’t think Rick Levin
really exploits me.>
Am I an exploiter?
No I don’t think I exploit you
guys. Or do you exploit me because I
have to stay up until midnight to grade your assignments?
No, it’s not really.
I actually occasionally have
fun reading your assignments. Right?
So we have a new middle
class–right?–which simply does not fit the analysis,
and where the notion of exploitation loses its insight.
Okay, I’ll leave it here.