Ethics is a Branch of Philosophy

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Ethics is a branch of philosophy that looks at decision-based ideas. It essentially tells you how to live a morally good life. Karl Marx is a famous philosopher who focused mainly on the sub-discipline. Karl Marx’s greatest contribution to the sub- discipline of ethics was his push to end capitalism and replace it with the more ethical economic system communism. Capitalism has been a popular economic system since its beginnings in 1834. It is a system that thrives on profit from private ownership.

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Karl Marx believes that capitalism should be replaced because it diminishes individuality. Individuals work just to survive instead of working based on their interest and abilities. Also, capitalism creates a social construct that creates false consciousness that allows for a great unequal distribution of capital. This system feeds the idea of the rich getting richer while the poor stay poor. Marx believes communism should replace capitalism because man would be able to live on equal terms. This system would get rid of greed and exploitation of man.

Capitalism is rooted in profit, but Marx’s issue with capitalism is not with the idea of profit , but how that profit is acquired. Marx developed something called the Labor Theory of value that says a commodities price is determined by the amount of labor is necessary to produce it and this explains how capitalism creates profit (Arnold). Essentially labor is exchanged for a commodity and the owners pay workers for their commodity , labor. The amount being paid to the worker for their labor is always less than the price of the commodity. Marx says this is exploitation of the worker. This is where the problem lies workers are not being well compensated for their work but its normalized by the system. The system creates a hierarchy that puts workers at the bottom, yet they are essentially the most important part of the structure.
Another major problem with capitalism is greed; it actually makes room for lots of it. At first money was solely a commodity. It was only used as a means to get other things.

As capitalism developed it became something people wanted to accumulate. Instead of having enough money to acquire basic needs capitalists want to acquire lots of it. The moment money became an end and not just a commodity is when capitalisms began to become a system of greed and inequality(Brennan). The sellers of commodities become a hoarder of money which withdraws money from circulation. The system became so efficient at creating and creating as a hope to gain as much possible profit crisis began to happen. Before crisis were often associated with lack of commodity but under the capitalism system crisis are an overproduction of commodity. The need for these commodities being made were significantly less than the amount being produced.

Marx believed crises were inevitable within capitalism and this instability would eventually end capitalism (H. Meyer).Profit is what drives the capitalist system. Profit has a tendency to go up and down uncontrollably. Within capitalism there are many safety loops to help lessen the effects of crises, for instance a capitalist could move their company out of the country so that labor could cost less , or they can markup their prices, or cut wages. Marx’s theory of crisis says those safety loops can only do so much to prevent or control crisis. So, capitalism in itself is very unstable and self-deconstructing.

Marx says crisis happen with capitalism because of the law of falling profit. Capitalism is a very competitive economic system in that capitalist gain the most profit when they can create the commodity the cheapest. This competition over profit alone can lead to a crisis. Capitalist go back and forth stealing each other’s ideas to be more efficient and cheap in creating commodities then there becomes an overproduction. The overproduction and under need for commodities because of the sudden surplus forces capitalists to sell commodities at a lower price essentially decreasing the why of capitalism, profit (Albert).

Profit is the most important variable of the system for capitalist, but the laborers are the most important variable in order for the economic system to run efficiently. There are four major components to a capitalistic economic system according to Marx: Means of production are mostly privately owned. People own labor power and have the right to sell it. Production always has an end goal of profit rather than to satisfy human needs. Market determines how much commodity is made and invested (Marx). These components create a hierarchy that positions the working class at the bottom and owners/ capitalist at the top.

The working class is essential for capitalism to function. According to Marx human labor is the only means of increasing value of commodity, which supports his labor theory of value. If a commodity needed less human labor, for instance a new machine was created to do most of the laboring the commodities value would go down. This did not mean profit would go down because Marx believed value and profit to be contrastive. Value is directly related to the amount of labor needed to produce the commodity where profit is the amount of money gained from the commodity after labor has been paid(Holmstrom).

The need for the working class to produce to fundamentally gain profit for capitalist is what interconnects the hierarchy. This system begins to demine humans; man began to become inhumanly seen as a means to increase value through labor. Man became both object and subject to himself. This association between labor and commodity is hidden within capitalism. Karl Marx developed and defines this idea called commodity fetishism. Commodity fetishism says that everything within commodity is related (Ollman). The workers, the owners, ideology, political and legal structures are all interconnected(Ollman). Capitalism covers these connections , it compartmentalizes them so that workers are blind to their exploitation. This for Marx is why capitalism still exist. This compartmentalization allows capitalist to get away with exploiting workers. Capitalism allows for workers to be exploited and to live in poverty while capitalist bring in tons of profit creating the current unequal distribution of wealth.

Laborers are being exploited through the system of capitalism because of their naivety. A laborer can go to a regular day of work for 8 hours. During those first 4 hours they produce enough commodities to pay for their work day. This part of the shift is called necessary labor. Any other labor done that day is called surplus labor. Surplus labor is where profit originates. Those remaining 4 hours, the owner is solely gaining from your labor. According to Marx labor is the only commodity that allows for a commodity to produce more than it’s worth and this is called variable capital. Owners are stealing from workers through variable capital.

This is called parasite exploitation by Kieran Allen which is defined as a lack of reciprocity in the relation between the exploited and exploiters. Essentially the laborer is doing unpaid work for the exploiter and the owner is pocketing that money. Capitalism systematically allows for continuous exploitation of na??ve workers.

Capitalism also takes away from individuality. Within capitalism there are far more workers than owners. Therefore workers have to present their self in a manner that makes them a good worker. We as people are created differently we think and live differently. Therefore we are good at different things we all have different abilities, but those abilities don’t matter much if they don’t align with what owners need in a worker. We conform to the system. The system normalizes working and being an exploited worker, because what other way is it to survive? Besides being an owner the only way to make money is to be a worker. The only way to get basic needs to survive is to have money which is given to workers through their manual labor. This is why the system is continuing. Humans become objects, machinelike that are forced to offer their labor for food and housing.

The idea that capitalism takes away from individuality is a well debated subject. The whole concept of capitalism is the trade of commodities is controlled by private independent owners without the input of the state. Its based on individual rights to your commodities and the right to trade what is yours creating a free market. All most people have ownership of for means to trade is their labor. These are the people whose individuality are stripped . When someone is dependent on wages paid from a superior for basic survival, morals and personal opinions can be compromised or covered. Capitalist, however have a lot of freedom and rights to opinions and individuality, they have no one to answer too. Once again, this system walks all over the working class while capitalist win. Workers are not given much of choice , conform to the demands of the labor market or struggle.

For Marx there are three stages of life: self- awareness, self- alienation, and self- realization(Scruton). All three stages of life are constituted through social activities. These social activities create the norms in life. Most people in society are workers so its normalized , in response society has normalized exploitation. This creates what Marx calls a false consciousness. He says this is not error in judgement but universal error(Marx). Workers do not quite see the wrong in the exploitation because it is covered to them, capitalists understand the system in and out and this is how they keep everything hidden. Marx says this kind of consciousness conceals the exploitation and enables the workers from perceiving what is happening.

False consciousness keeps these constructed robot-like human laborers in place. Marx’s divides society into three classes the bourgeoise, landowners and proletariat. The bourgeoisie are the capitalist, those who own the means of production of commodities. The landowners are those who own a large amount of land and whose income is from rent. The proletariat are those who have nothing else to offer but their manual labor in trade for wages/survival.

Within each class individuals develop a similar mindset of the norms because they have similar social activities. They develop a mutual dependence, community, values and means of income(Rummell). These common interests create a conflict between perspective in each class. Marx’s believes the conflict between classes is the main means to change. For Marx false consciousness and the inability for the proletariats to care for themselves aside from offering their manual labor is what keeps the system in place. Being aware of the opposition and perspective differences between classes creates class consciousness which would be harmful for the bourgeoise’s. Conflict will lead to expectations that will lead to change.

Marx’s believes communism would be a much better societal system for many reasons. Workers will not be exploited and everyone will be on the same playing field. The transition from capitalism to communism will be a great and slow change, but Marx believes capitalism will end itself. He believes capitalisms is a destructive system that will destroy itself within its very own nature. Communism is a system that believes in common ownership to means of production. It erases the idea of social class, property, and money. In the transitions into communism Marx ask for societal constraints like:

1) Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. 2) Centralization of communication and transport in the hands of the state. 3) Abolition of all right of inheritance. 4) Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels. 5) Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive 6) Equal liability of all to labor. 7) Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of population over the country. 8) Free education for all children in public schools. etc. (Marx)
These wants will reverse a lot of structures that create the social classes within capitalism. Marx believes communism is a better system because it leads us towards social evolution. He believes social problems come from poor morality which he believed would be improved under communistic ruling.

Capitalism as is, has created an uneven distribution in wealth. It has allowed for continuous exploitation of workers while capitalist continuously gain. Capitalist keep their wealth and find ways to keep it growing simultaneously depriving the working class. Today in 2018, 0.7% of people own over 45% of wealth. Capitalism is a very much flawed system that allows for this, but from what Marx has laid out, a new system needs to be put in place to improve the quality of life for all. He believes that change will happen naturally because of the constraint’s capitalism puts on itself.

Capitalism will destruct itself creating room for new societal systems. In the capitalist system power is equal to one’s power over development. Under communistic control there would be free development of all. Free development for all equals a fair, even playing field that allows for individual opinions and beliefs to be expressed freely. Karl Marx spent a great deal of time exposing capitalistic ways in hopes of evoking a change, this is his greatest contribution to the sub-discipline of ethics within philosophy.

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Ethics Is A Branch Of Philosophy. (2019, Nov 18). Retrieved November 27, 2022 , from

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