My first reading for the semester is Marx/Engels’s excerpt from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. M/E outline how the worker is turned into a commodity, and how political economy (political science) has failed to acknowledge nor account for this; rather, political economy ignores this aspect of capitalism.

The worker becomes alienated from what he is producing because the worker no longer has any relation to his product. The worker does not sell any material object; he sells his labor and the rich sells the worker’s product: “With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as commodity” (653). As the worker becomes alienated from the things he produces, he also becomes alienated from himself. The worker, himself, becomes a commodity (a “thing”) because he is used as thing– something that is meant to produce labour. Furthermore, the worker has no contact with his finished product (and if he does the product is alien to him–it is something that the worker does not recognize as something he has made). He is alienated from the end product. And the object is alienated from the worker.

Furthermore, the more the worker works, the more the world is made alien to him and the more the inner-world of the worker is made alien. M/E give a compelling argument that anyone who has come home from a long day of work can relate to: “He is at home when he is not at working, and when he is working he is not at home. His labour is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labour” (655).

The implication here is that the industrialized world of capitalism has alienated the labour of the worker from his end product. If a farmer tills the land, he sees his end product, can eat it, can sell it, himself. With industrialization and capitalism, a worker works in a factory making objects he never sees and that he does not sell. If the worker makes a part of a pen in a factory, he is completely alienated from that product when he sees it in the world. Furthermore, without this connection to his labour, the worker no longer works at what he loves but rather works in order to feed and house himself.

The beginnings of what is about to be written can be seen here. The concern of the working class and the exploitation of the working class by the rich are beginning to be analyzed here. This reading will continue in German Ideology, which I have to read next.

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