Sociology 250

September 14, 1999

Selected Quotes from Marx

1. We shall begin from a contemporary economic fact. The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces and the more his production increases in power and extent. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more goods he creates. The devaluation of the human world increases in direct relation to the increase in value of the world of things. Labour does not only create goods; it also produces itself and the worker as a commodity, and indeed in the same proportion as it produces goods. (Manuscripts, p. 13)

2. This fact simply implies that the object produced by labour, its product, now stands opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labour is labour which has been embodied in an object and turned into a physical thing; this product is an objectification of labour. ... So much does the performance of work appear as devaluation that the worker is devalued to the point of starvation. So much does objectification appear as loss of the object that the worker is deprived of the most essential things not only of life but also of work. Labour itself becomes an object which he can acquire only with the greatest effort and with unpredictable interruptions. ... the more objects the worker produces the fewer he can possess and the more he falls under the domination of his product, of capital. (Manuscripts, p. 13)

3. All these consequences follow from the fact that the worker is related to the product of his labour as to an alien object. For it is clear on this presupposition that the more the worker expends himself in work the more powerful becomes the world of objects which he creates in face of himself, the poorer he becomes in his inner life, and the less he belongs to himself. ... The worker puts his life into the object, and his life then belongs no longer to himself but to the object. The greater his activity, therefore, the less he possesses. What is embodied in the product of his labour is no longer his own. The greater this product is, therefore, the more he is diminished. The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labour becomes an object, assumes an external existence, but that it exists independently, outside himself, and alien to him, and that it stands opposed to him as an autonomous power. The life which he has given to the object sets itself against him as an alien and hostile force. (Manuscripts, pp. 13-14)

4. [H]e does not fulfil himself in his work but denies himself, has a feeling of misery rather than well-being, does not develop freely his mental and physical energies but is physically exhausted and mentally debased. The worker, therefore, feels himself at home only during his leisure time, whereas at work he feels homeless. His work is not voluntary but imposed, forced labour. It is not the satisfaction of a need, but only a means for satisfying other needs. (Manuscripts, p. 15)

5. Since alienated labour: (1) alienates nature from man; and (2) alienates man from himself, from his own active function, his life activity; so it alienates him from the species. ... For labour, life activity, productive life, now appear to man only as means for the satisfaction of a need, the need to maintain physical existence. ... In the type of life activity resides the whole character of a species, its species-character; and free, conscious activity is the species-character of human beings. ... Conscious life activity distinguishes man from the life activity of animals. (Manuscripts, p. 16)

6. A direct consequence of the alienation of man from the product of his labour, from his life activity and from his species-life, is that man is alienated from other men. ... man is alienated from his species-life means that each man is alienated from others, and that each of the others is likewise alienated from human life. (Manuscripts, p. 17)

7. Political economy starts with the fact of private property; it does not explain it to us. (Estranged, p. 270).

8. Now, therefore, we have to grasp the intrinsic connection between private property, avarice, the separation of labour, capital and landed property; the connection of exchange and competition, of value and the devaluation of men, of monopoly and competition, etc. --- we have to grasp this whole estrangement connected with the money system. (Estranged, p. 271)

9. It is true that labour produces wonderful things for the rich -- but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces -- but for the worker, hovels. It produces beauty -- but for the worker, deformity. It replaces labour by machines, but it throws one section of the workers back to a barbarous type of labour, and it turns the other section into a machine. It produces intelligence -- but for the worker, stupidity, cretinism. (Estranged p. 273).

10. Wages are a direct consequence of estranged labour, and estranged labour is the direct cause of private property. The downfall of one must therefore involve the downfall of the other. (2) From the relationship of estranged labour to private property it follows further that the emancipation of society from private property, etc., from servitude, is expressed in the political form of the emancipation of the workers; not that their emancipation alone is at stake, but because the emancipation of the workers contains universal human emancipation -- and it contains this, because the whole of human servitude is involved in the relation of the worker to production, and all relations of servitude are but modification and consequences of this relation. (Estranged p. 280).

11. Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being -- a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man -- the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, it knows itself to be this solution. (Estranged, pp. 296-7)

12. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. (Giddens, p. 41)

13. The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time, its ruling intellectual force. The class, which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the idea expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. (Ritzer, pp. 70-71)

14. ... assembles the bourgeois and proletarians in large cities, in which industry can be carried on most profitably, and by this herding together of great masses in one spot makes the proletarians conscious of their power. (Draper, pp. 41-42)

15. If we then disregard the use-value of commodities, only one property remains, that of being products of labour. ... are all together reduced to the same kind of labour, human labour in the abstract. ... they are merely congealed quantities of homogeneous human labour-power expended without regard to the form of its expenditure. ... As crystals of this social substance, which is common to them all, they are values -- commodity values. (Capital, p. 128).

16. Capital cannot therefore arise from circulation, and it is equally impossible for it to rise apart from circulation. It must have its origin both in circulation and not in circulation. ... The transformation of money into capital has to be developed on the basis of the immanent laws of the exchange of commodities, in such a way that the starting-point is the exchange of equivalents. The money-owner, who is as yet only a capitalist in larval form, must buy his commodities at their value, sell than at their value, and yet at the end of the process withdraw more value from circulation than he threw into it at the beginning. His emergence as a butterfly must, and yet must not, take place in the sphere of circulation. (Capital, pp. 268-269).

17. In order to extract value out of the consumption of a commodity, our friend the money-owner must be lucky enough to find within the sphere of circulation, on the market, a commodity whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value, whose actual consumption is therefore an objectification ... of labour, hence a creation of value. The possessor of money does find such a special commodity on the market: the capacity for labour ... , in other words labour-power ... . (Capital, p. 270).

18. ... the number and extent of ... so-called necessary requirements, as also the manner in which they are satisfied, are themselves products of history, and depend therefore to a great extent on the level of civilization attained by a country; in particular they depend on the conditions in which, and consequently on the habits and expectations with which, the class of free workers has been formed." (Capital, p. 275).

19. The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all lands, unite! (From the Communist Manifesto, Berlin, p. 168).



Manuscripts refers to Karl Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, reprinted in A. Giddens and D. Held, Classes, Power, and Conflict: Classical and Contemporary Debates, pp. 12-19. (Note: I have changed the translation of the word 'vitiate' to 'devalue' in 2).

Estranged refers to the "Estranged Labour" section of "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844" in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 3, Marx and Engels 1843-1844 (International Publishers, New York, 1975).

Giddens refers to A. Giddens, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory.

Ritzer refers to G. Ritzer, Sociological Theory, third edition.

Draper refers to Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution. Volume II: The Politics of Social Classes.

Capital refers to K. Marx, Capital, Volume 1 (Penguin Books, 1976).

Berlin refers to I. Berlin, Karl Marx: his Life and Environment (Galaxy, 1963).


Last edited on September 17, 1999.

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