Sociological Theory Essay

Karl Marx: Major features of capitalist mode of production Introduction. Karl Marx is one of the outstanding and influential social scientists of the 19th century, an undeniable founder of modern social science. Some critics, however, believe that Marx was not an original thinker and that his claim to recognition lies in the fact of his remarkable synthesis of German Philosophy, French Sociology and English Economics of his time.

He collected the stray and isolated thoughts in these fields and constructed a coherent intellectual mansion for academic enlightenment and practical application, very much according to his own design. Hedge’s dialectical process or principle of development through thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis provided the philosophical background for his theory of historical development through ‘contradiction and conflict’.

However, he replaced Hedge’s notion of the development of the ‘Idea’ through the dialectical process to its final and highest form with the ‘Materialism’ of Breach and introduced the concept of dialectical materialism to explain the historical process through ‘class war’. He derived both the phrase and the concept of “class war’ from French socialists like Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier.

On the Economics side, Marx adopted in its entirety the Arcadian theory that labor was the source of value and developing it drew conclusions which Richard might have disdained. Thus, in short, Mar’s social theory consists of three parts, with a fourth one thrown in later, and very ingeniously interwoven to present a coherent picture of a social organization, at once dynamic and in a state of flux.

First is a philosophy of history anchored in the theory of Dialectical Materialism, which is manifested in a recurring class war in which the negation of the gentian produces ever new negations. Secondly, there is the economic analysis which gives an exposition of a theory of value in an attempt to discover the secrets and the process of capitalist exploitation. Thirdly, there is a view of the state, about its present structure and nature, and techniques of changing it through revolution.

We may also mention the fourth, a prophecy and a vision: the prophecy about the development of capitalism and its ultimate destination, and the vision of the final culmination of dialectical materialism in a classless and stateless society. In this paper our concern is to discuss the major features of the capitalistic mode of production. Capitalist mode of production Nowhere in Mar’s writings can we find a complete definition of the capitalist mode of production, although it can be said that, in a profound sense, in its entirety Ads Capital is itself his ‘definition’ of the concept.

However, from this and his other writings we can glean the meaning of a ‘mode of production’ as the following: that it is a specific combination of productive forces which include human labor-power, machinery and tools and technologies, materials, alluding and improved land; and social relations of production which include the property, power and control relations governing society’s productive assets, often codified in law, cooperative work relations and forms of association, and the relations between people and the objects of their work, and the relations between social classes.

Productive forces Productive forces thus include tools, equipment, technologies etc. And also human labor-power; all of which in the current language of the economist generally constitute what are called ‘inputs’ for producing output. Output is reduced with the intention of sale in a market, for only through sale of Output, can the owner of capital realize part of the surplus-product of human labor, and claim profits. So also, the inputs of production are supplied through the market, as commodities.

However, machinery and techniques should not be considered in ‘the abstract’. A machine requires workers to build, operate and maintain it and only in this context is it a productive force. The productive forces of a society thus also comprise importantly of workers with the necessary skills, which is labor-power, to build and operate canines. Marx says that, ;of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself. (Poverty of philosophy, p. 51 Labor-power is supplied through the market because it is a ‘commodity’ like other inputs. A commodity A commodity is any good or service offered for sale on the market for a price because it has a use value and an exchange value. It has a use value because it can satisfy some physical or ideal human need or want. This is a social use value, I. E. The object is useful not only to the producer but has a use for others generally. It has an exchange value because it can be traded for other commodities, and thus can give its owner the benefit of another man’s labor.

Price is the monetary expression of exchange-value; however, exchange value could also be expressed as a trading ratio between two commodities without the intermediation of money. The labor theory of value postulates that the value Of a commodity in an open market is regulated by the average socially necessary labor time required to produce it, and along with relative prices it is ultimately governed by the law of value. And because labor-power is a modify bought and sold in the market, its ‘price’ is also governed by the market laws of supply and demand and ultimately by the law of value. W of value David Richard in his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, succinctly states the ‘theory of value’ as: “The value of a commodity, or the quantity of any other commodity for which it will exchange, depends on the relative quantity of labor which is necessary for its production, and not on the greater or less compensation which is paid for that labor. ” (Richard, 1817, chap. 1). At an elementary level, the ‘labor theory of value’ states that labor is he basis of value.

The value of a commodity says Marx, is determined by the amount of socially necessary labor contained in it or in other words, by the amount of socially necessary labor-time spent in producing it from start to finish. Socially necessary labor is the amount of labor needed to produce, and reproduce a commodity under average working conditions, e. G. Average productivity, average intensity Of labor. We have noted above that under capitalism labor-power (the ability of human beings to work, human energy) takes the form of a commodity.

Indeed this fact is the basis of capitalism since it presupposes the separation of the producers from the ownership and control of the means and instruments for producing wealth. The labor spent on creating a man’s labor power is that spent in producing the food, clothing, shelter and the other things needed to keep him in a fit state to work. This ‘quantity of labor’ required for this purpose, for its own production and reproduction is the ‘necessary labor’ for that purpose.

When the worker finds an employer he is paid a wage, which is the price he is paid for allowing the employer to use his Barbour power for, say, eight hours a day. Wages are the monetary expression of the value of labor-power. Us Rufus value Barbour-power has the property of being able to produce and create new and additional value over and above the requirements of its own production and reproduction. Even if, for instance a worker’s wages for the expenditure of his labor-power for four hours a day is necessary and sufficient for the ‘production and reproduction’ of his labor power, he does not stop after he has worked four hours.

He must work for another four hours in terms of his contract with his employer. Since he is working in his employers’ place, with his employers’ tools, machinery and raw materials anything he produces belongs to his employer. Thus, in this case, the employer gets four hours’ free labor. This is the source of his profit. Marx states in Capital Volvo. L: We have seen that the laborer, during one portion of the labor-process, produces only the value of his labor-power …

The portion of his day’s labor devoted to this purpose, will be greater or less, in proportion to the value of the necessaries that he daily requires on an average, or, equivalently, in reapportion to the labor-time required on an average to produce them. During the second period of the labor-process, that in which his labor is no longer necessary labor, the workman, it is true, labors, expends labor- power; but his labor, being no longer necessary labor, he creates no value for himself. He creates surplus-value which, for the capitalist, has all the charms of a creation out of nothing.

This portion of the working-day, for a definite period of time, name surplus labor-time, and to the labor expended during that time, I give the name of surplus-labor. (Marx, Capital, Volvo. ) Surplus labor then is the extra labor-time the laborer performs beyond the necessary labor. In order for a laborer to perform surplus labor, four conditions need to be met: 1. He must create products with social value. 2. These products must have an exchange value. 3. The compensation received by the laborer for his work has value less than the total value Of the products he has created. . This compensation plus the value of used up raw materials and the wear and tear on machinery’ and tools is also less than the total value of his creations. The excess value above the value of the worker’s insemination plus the value of used up materials and machinery is surplus value. Surplus labor is that labor performed in the creation of this surplus value. And surplus value is appropriated by the capitalist. Exploitation Marx derived his theory of exploitation under capitalism from the labor theory Of value.

A summary account of his theory of exploitation might be as follows: The capital, C, necessary for the production of a commodity is made up of two pats: c ; constant capital, and v – variable capital. C = c + v. Constant capital is that portion of capital equipment (machinery, for example) worn way in the process of production plus raw and auxiliary materials. Variable capital is the money spent for (the wages of) living labor and is equal to the laborer’s subsistence. However, variable capital is capable of creating surplus value, s. Thus the value of a commodity is c + v + s.

A laborer may work eight hours per day and reproduce his own value, v, equal to his wage, in four hours. This is the ‘necessary labor-time’. The extra four hours which he works gratis for the capitalist is the surplus value created by the laborer but appropriated by the capitalist. The rate of surplus value is the rate of exploitation of labor by capital. It may be defined as s surplus labor – v necessary labor “The rate Of surplus value is therefore an exact expression or the degree of exploitation of labor- power by capital, or of the laborer by the capitalist. (Marx. Capital, Volvo. L, chi. 9). Marx called the ratio of surplus labor to necessary labor (which is the same as the ratio of surplus value to variable capital) the rate of surplus value, or rate of exploitation (s/v). It is in the interest of the capitalist to increase the proportion of surplus labor to necessary labor. He can do this in two ways: first by lengthening the irking day itself and second by increasing the ratio of surplus labor to necessary labor by reducing the necessary labor.

The obvious way to do this is to reduce the workers’ wages, which of course the employer will always do if he can. However, the same result, of reducing the proportion of necessary labor, will occur if productivity is increased so that, for example, the labor time necessary for the production of the articles the worker needs is reduced and their prices fall, with the consequent reduction of the value of labor- power without reducing the worker’s standard of living. It has to be noted hat exploitation takes place at the point of production.

Workers are exploited at work. When a worker receives his wage he has already been exploited. Therefore, he cannot be ‘exploited’ again by moneylenders or shopkeepers or landlords or taxmen (though of course, they can rob and cheat him, and he in turn Can do the same to them, but that’s a different matter). Surplus-value can be increased by the use of machinery. Machinery increases the productivity of labor and thus reduces the ‘necessary labor-time’. But when more machinery is employed relative to labor, less labor is available for exploitation.

To compensate for this decline in the source of surplus-value, the capitalist utilizes the remaining labor more fully, leading to an intensification of the work of the laborer, and to his growing “misery, oppression, slavery, degradation and exploitation” of labor. (Marx in Freedman, p. 170) Accumulation of capital With the increase in the productivity of labor, there is a tendency for greater accumulation of capital. And as accumulation of capital proceeds, the proportion of constant capital, c, to labor or variable capital, v, increases. This means that the rate of profit S/C (= S/c + v) might decline.

This is because surplus-value can be derived only from variable capital. This “progressive tendency of the average rate of profit to fall”, says Marx, “is therefore but a peculiar expression of capitalist production for the fact that the social productivity of labor is progressively increasing” (Marx in Freedman, 1961, Monopoly The process of capital accumulation, once begun, begets further accumulation. When wealth increases there is a tendency for wealth to be ‘concentrated in the hands of individual capitalists’. The number of capitalists tends to increase and along with it, also competition among them.

This competition inevitably leads to the “expropriation of capitalists by capitalists, transformation of many small into a few large capitals” (Marx in Freedman, 1961, p. 164). Monopoly emerges and then: “The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production which has sprung up and flourished along with and under it. Centralization of the means of production and colonization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with the capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds.

The expropriators are expropriated”. Marx in Freedman, p. 170). We now turn to a consideration of the relations of production, the second constituent element in the Marxian concept of the capitalistic mode of production. Relations of Production The forces of production discussed above are associated with what Marx calls the relations of production. Social change is immanent but Occurs according to the internal ‘dynamics’ of a society engendered by the ‘relations of production’, which, in turn are determined by the ‘forces of production’. Marx is very clear in the exposition of this concept.

In the Preface to his Critique of Political Economy he writes: In the social production of their means of existence men enter into definite social relations which are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society the real foundation on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.

The mode of production of the material means of existence determines the general character of the social, political and parietal processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness. Elsewhere, in The Poverty of Philosophy, Marx declares: “Social relations are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations.

The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist. “(p. 109) Mar’s Relations of production refer to: the worker’s relation to capital; the worker’s relation to the product he produces; the worker’s relation to the ‘values’ he creates; the economic relationship between people emanating from the way they produce and reproduce their existence; nature of relationship in respect of ownership and control of society’s productive assets. All these relationships of production are mediated through the market.

Therefore, in effect, instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations become embedded in the economic system. In Capital, Volvo. L, Chi. 3 Marx gives an example of the concept of the relations of production from Edward Gibbon Wakefield theory of colonization: Wakefield discovered that in the Colonies, property in money, means of subsistence, machines, and other means of production, does not as yet stamp a man as a capitalist if there be wanting the correlative – the wage- worker, the other man who is compelled to sell himself of his own free-will.

He discovered that capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things. Mr.. Peel, he moans, took with him from England to Swan River, West Australia, means of pubescence and Of production to the amount of EWE,OHO. Mr.. Peel had the foresight to bring with him, besides, 3,000 persons of the working-class, men, women, and children. Once arrived at his destination, “Mr..

Peel was left without a servant to make his bed or fetch him water from the river. ” Unhappy Mr.. Peel, who provided for everything except the export of English modes of production to Swan River! (Karl Marx, in Capital, Volvo. I, Chi. 3) Australia, originally an English ‘colony’ for deportees, sparsely populated with an immense area of unoccupied land, had no proper system of property sights and legal obligations and no economic compulsion of workers to work for a ‘capitalist’ as wage-laborers.

The ‘workers’ therefore could leave Mr. Peel for other occupations or seek free land to occupy and make a better living on their own. The mode of production appropriate to a capitalist economy, with its forces of production and relations of production have not yet found a habitation in Swan River, Australia. Marx distinguishes the social relations of production from the technical relations of production; in the former, it is a relation between people; in the latter, it is a relation between people and objects in the world they live.

The marketplace is where all people have free and equal access and freely negotiate and bargain over deals and prices on the basis of equality. Market forces seem to regulate everything, but what is really behind those market forces has become obscured, because the social relationship between people or their relation with nature is expressed as a commercial relationship between things (money, commodities, capital) in the market. (fetishism of commodities).

In some instances, therefore, social relations Of production exist in an objective way, not because they are a trial necessity for groups of people, but because of the mediation of social and technical relations through exchange of commodities. Relationships between ‘things’ (commodities, prices etc. ) indicate and express social and technical relations, but these ‘exchange’ or ‘commercial’ relations also govern and regulate the pattern of human contact and technique. Marx says that the working class, by its labor, continuously reproduces the capitalist relations of production.

But this will happen only until the capitalist mode of production exists, for, “At a certain stage of their development, the eternal forces of production in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or – what is but a legal expression of the same thing with the property relations within which they had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production, these relations turn into their fetters. Then comes the period of social revolution. ” (Marx, Preface to A Critique of Political Economy). Until this happens, the old order continues.

And the capitalist social order is likely to continue for long because, “No social order ever disappears before all productive forces for which there is room in t have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society”. (Marx, Preface to A Critique of Political Economy). Conclusion Marx has been accused of not being able to anticipate the enormous stride that capitalist mode of production has made in the ‘affluent society’ of America.

We do not discuss the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of this argument here. But a few quotes from his Communist Manifesto are considered to be in order to see where the ‘current state’ of the capitalist mode of production stands. To begin with, Marx says that already the ” bourgeoisie has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together”. But then the bourgeoisie cannot rest, because he “cannot exist without constantly revolutionize the instruments of production and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. By revolutionize the instruments of production the bourgeois have created such an abundance of wealth that, “The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. ” One way they try to get over this problem is “by the conquest of new markets and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones”. Take the conquest of new markets. “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe.

It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country”. The current word for this is ‘globalization’. Another aspect of this globalizes fatalistic mode of production is: “The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all nations, even the most barbarian, into civilization…

It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeoisie mode of production… To become bourgeoisie themselves. ” Consider now the other aspect of expanding the market by greater exploitation of the old markets. “Independent, but loosely connected provinces with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of saws, one national class interest, one frontier and one customs tariff. ” (European Union and earlier USA and Canada).

In addition to those mentioned above, some other achievements of the capitalist mode of production are by no means meager or puny. It has “stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science into paid wage laborers. ” And so too “The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relations into a mere money relation. (All the quotes in this section are from Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848).

As the exploitation and the consequent poverty of the ‘wage-laborers’ was at once the foundation and the consequence of the capitalistic mode of production, so too now the exploitation and the misery of “less-developed” nations are the basis and the consequence of the affluence of the “highly developed” nation under the new ‘globalizes capitalistic mode of production.