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Karl Marx Alienation of Labor

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    Max Rodrigues Response Paper on Karl Marx 10/23/10 According to Karl Marx, wages are a representation of one’s potential value of labor, however company owners necessarily get more money from one’s labor than an individual is paid in wages, for wages are based upon what is considered the minimal amount of money needed to sustain a worker’s life. This makes it a structural necessity in capitalism to feel as though we are paid less than the amount of work we put in.

    Given the author’s arguments, going through a retraining program in order to find a fulfilling career goes with Marx’s claim that we sell our labor for a wage in order to live, but he does not take into consideration the satisfaction received in a fulfilling career such as Alan Moniz did when he retrained to become an occupational therapy assistant. Alienation of labor is a fundamental idea of Karl Mar, but it is evident that a fulfilling profession gives a different kind of value to workers’ lives.

    However, no matter the career, by auctioning off our labor, we sell one of the very things that make us human. Former factory worker Alan Moniz went through a retraining program after he was laid off and found a job as an occupational therapy assistant, which pays the same as his previous job which he worked at for thirty years. Part of the training program meant Moniz had to go back to school in order to obtain the degree necessary to find a job related to health care, which is the field he wanted to get into in order to help make the lives of other individuals better.

    Moniz’s job can be seen as virtuous since he is working to help others and it is fulfilling because he enjoys bringing help to others. Moniz used retraining as a means to guide his life to finding a self-satisfying career which integrates his want to help others with his labor, which is what Marx believes all individuals should strive towards. Karl Marx believes that capitalism alienates workers from their own labor and that life isn’t work in a capitalist society but rather human life begins after the work is over for the day.

    Marx explains our need to auction our labor on page 204 of Wage Labour and Capital where he states, “He (the working man) works in order to live. He does not even reckon labour as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life…What he produces for himself is wages. ” Marx says this because when we sell our labor time, we are selling the products of our labor which therefore means wages alienate us from our own labor power. Since humans are laborious beings, selling off something that makes us human is to sell off our humanity.

    Marx believes selling what makes us human exploits workers and that it is wrong for business owners to purchase labor with only the intention of profit rather than improvement. Owners must make a profit off of the labor they purchase from the workers they hire, so it necessary for wages to pay less than the amount of money the labor produced. Owners also determine employee wages based on what is considered necessary to sustain life, which means owners will make wages as low as possible.

    This system of only paying the absolute minimum does not allow for the accumulation of money and also means that no matter how much effort a worker put into their job, their wage will remain unchanged. In order to reclaim the full value of our labor, Marx believes the economy should be guided by integrating our life with our labor. Given Marx’s arguments, we can see that Moniz retraining to find a job that he finds fulfilling by means of helping others is an attempt to integrate what he likes to do with his life with his labor.

    The satisfaction Moniz gets from helping others in his job is something few careers offer, and it is this same satisfaction that explains why people volunteer to help others outside of the workday. While Moniz was working as a factory employee, Marx would consider him an exploited worker who was being underpaid for his labor, especially considering he earned the same wage after thirty years of work as he did for his starting salary as an occupational therapy assistant. Moniz’s old job did not have the same value of fulfillment as he gets now, for his job required simply to perform the same repetitive task day in and day out.

    Marx says that all products generated during the workday by a company’s workers are property of the company. So in Moniz’s case, the aid he gives to the elderly and impaired are products of the rehabilitation center. However, the happiness Moniz receives from helping others by working at the rehab center is something he would not gain in most other careers. It can therefore be said that when a career creates virtue for the employee, the worker is integrating their life with their labor for virtue is something normally acquired outside of the work day.

    Marx would say that Moniz is doing a good thing by getting more out of his labor more than just a wage, but Marx would still consider Moniz to be alienated from his labor for he is selling himself for a wage. Marx is right that our labor power is becomes property of business owners and that in a capitalistic society, the only way to live is to sell yourself off for a wage. As the job market becomes more competitive, there are more people like Moniz attempting to retrain in order to find new and better jobs. Wage labor for Marx, no matter the occupation, is a system that exploits the worker.

    So no matter how great the happiness or enjoyment one receives from their career is, such as Moniz from his career helping others, we are still alienated from our labor and therefore taking away one of the biggest contributors of what makes us human. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Karl Marx. “The Marx-Engels Reader. ” Wage Labour and Capital. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 203-217. [ 2 ]. Tami Luhby. “Does Job Retraining Actually Work? ” CNNMoney. 10/22/10. Web. 10/23/10. http://money. cnn. com/2010/10/22/news/economy/job_retraining_rhode_island/index. htm

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