Sociology 250

October 2, 2002

Capitalist Economics

Study of alienation in 1844

combines philosophic-historical approach

labour and material roots of alienation

beginnings of study of political economy

1848 revolutions Marx goes to Germany and then settles in London

embarks on extensive study of British industry and economic writings

continues journalistic and political work

1859 Grundrisse Foundations of political economy

1867 Capital Critique of political economy but is a detailed historical and theoretical study of emergence and development of capitalism

1. labour theory of value

surplus value

2. study of historical development of capitalism

capitalist and worker historical conditions

dispossesion of peasants and creation of original fortunes primitive accumuln

capitalist dynamics expansion, economic crises, declining rate of profit

3. praise for capitalism

most productive system in human history

creates incredible wealth

could produce plenty for all, which earlier systems could not

revolutionizes means of production

self-generating expansion accumulation

sweeps away all previous systems and forms of production

4. but promise not fulfilled

poverty instead of wealth


unemployment and bankruptcy

deforms worker and distorts and denies humanity

separation of mental and manual labour

5. replacement with proletarian revolution and socialism

Labour theory of value see "Capitalist Economics" Adams and Sydie, pp. 129-31

commodities goods and services that are traded or bought and sold

use-value or usefulness of commodity always existed in goods and services

exchange-value created by trade or exchange

contradiction between these two an exchange-value comes to dominate

value of commodities exchange in proportion to labour required to produce

all are products of human labour

present or living labour and past or dead labour

development of markets leads to

wider exchange

expansion of use of money

capital and its self-expansion

source of surplus-value is human labour

labour is productive in transforming nature use of land and raw materials

labour produced a surplus throughout history

eg. pyramids, palaces, cathedrals of precapitalist period

labour as useful activity and labour-power as commodity

capitalist buys labour-power or ability of worker to work

worker works extra hours for capitalist

products sold for a profit surplus-value and profit

form of surplus from human L is changed

absolute and relative surplus value

longer working day capitalist attempts to impose these on worker

change means of production

cheapen subsistence food, clothing, housing

intensify work Taylorism and scientific management

new technology organize production more efficiently

produce more with same human labour

accumulation self-expansion of capital

capital extends itself to new markets, new products, new regions

globalization beginnings with merchants and traders

domination of society by markets and commodity exchange

contradictions in capital accumulation

crises periods of boom and bust in economy

recessions and depressions

falling rate of profit threatens capital accumulation

creates a larger working class that Marx predicts will overthrow capitalism


useful way of looking at production

struggle over working day between employer and worker

expansion of markets and forces of globalization today

society dominated by market exchange and capital accumulation

Last edited on October 3, 2002

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