The world that Karl Marx lived in the 1800s is much different than the world we live in now. During the time he was alive and did his work, Marx saw a society that was new to industrialization. In his work, he recognizes that there are downsides to this economic system in fact, he advocated communism instead of capitalism. Marx saw two distinct social and economic groups in his society, the bourgeoisie, and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie are those who own the means of production. In Manifesto of the Communist Party, published in 1848, Marx defines the bourgeoisie as the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage-labor (Marx in Calhoun 2012, p 171).
Marx’s same work defines the proletariat as the class of modern wage-laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor-power to live (Marx in Calhoun 2012, p 171). These two terms are perhaps the most famous buzz-words to come from Marx’s work. Not only did Marx identify the bourgeoisie and proletariat, but he also identified three classes, which are referred to in the definitions provided earlier. In his 1867 work Classes, Marx states that the identity of revenues and sources of revenues are the characteristics that constitute class (Marx in Calhoun, p 190). His definition of class evolves over the course of his work. Earlier pieces state his definition of class as referring to one’s relationship with the mode of production.
When applying Marx’s work to today’s industrialized capitalist society, many groups are left out. We are also left with the bottom 90 percent of workers making an average of $34,000 every year, and on the opposite spectrum we have the top 10 percent of workers making an average of 312,000 per year. Our society is more industrialized and far more complex than Marx’s. Therefore, his work does not adequately apply. When looking at the big picture, there are still capitalists and workers.
The owners of large corporations are the capitalists and those on the lowest rung of the ladders are the workers, in Marx’s view. A large part of Marx’s work on capitalism focused on the exploitation faced by the workers from the capitalists. In Capital, Marx refers to exploitation as the process of when surplus value created by workers becomes the property of the capitalist. Capitalists, in Marx’s view, pay workers just enough for them to stay alive and reproduce more workers for the capitalist to hire to continue the same process again. However, the workers produce more than what they are paid for.
All that surplus gets put into the pocket of the capitalist, therefore making the relationship between capitalist and worker an exploitative one, according to Marx’s definition. Marx’s concept of exploitation in the capitalist and industrialized society he lived in can be seen today with wealth inequality in the United States. The US is a highly industrialized country that is capitalist in terms of their economic system. The concept of Alienated labor plays a large role in the buildup of wealth inequality in the United States. In a capitalist economy, the means of production are privately owned. The outcome, people who are part of the capitalist economy find themselves split into two classes: owning means of production (the capitalist class or bourgeoisie) and workers who do not (the proletariat).
Alienated labor has four aspects according to Marx, but ill only speak on two. The first happens when people become alienated from the product they produce. During the time when Marx lived people would do anything to keep their work as it was the main thing keeping them alive. The more objects workers produce, the fewer he can possess and the more he falls under the domination of his product, capital (Marx in Hughes 2010, p 40). The second aspect is self-alienation, workers do not get joy from the work they now have to do as it goes agents their own human nature, personal feelings, and their objective interests.
Marx argues Alienated labor not only separates people from the product of their work and from their true selves, but it also separates them from the very essence of humanity (Marx in Hughes 2010, p 40). Now that we are in 2018, work has become more specialized and machine driven. People are now forced into perusing training either at a college, university or at a specialized school if they wish to one day be in the top 10 percent. Getting a high school diploma is no longer enough if you wish to stand out or get ahead at the workplace.
Most companies are not looking to hire someone that they would have to train for two to four years, they want someone who has significant experience and that’ll need minimal guidance. For some getting this specialized training is not a problem and for other, it’s not even a choice they have. The top 10 percent have most likely gotten to that position by directly or indirectly benefiting from exploiting workers, so it’s not a problem for them to send their children to get a specialized education and training. On the other hand, those who are at the bottom 90 percent will most likely have a hard time getting specialized training, so they can move ahead but also, they might not have the luxury of sending their kids as well.
If they take out loans, they could have a hard time paying those back and therefore they will not be able to help their children with expenses as they still must worry about their own past loans. In conclusion, the reason why the bottom 90 percent of workers make an average of $34,000 per year while the top 10 percent make $312,000 per year is because the bottom 90 percent have become alienated from their work and what they produce. Those at the bottom are working to survive and are the modern-day proletariats while those specialized training and comfortable living are the new bourgeoisie.
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