The worker himself constantly produces objective wealth, in the form of capital, an alien power that dominates and exploits him; and the capitalist just as constantly produces labour-power, in the form of a subjective source of wealth which is abstract, exists merely in the physical body of the worker, and is separated from its own means of objectification and realization; in short, the capitalist produces the worker as a wage-labourer. This incessant reproduction, this perpetuation of the worker, is the absolutely necessary condition for capitalist production.
Marx, Karl, Capital Volume 1 (Penguin/NLR 1973), p.678 (via fuckyeahdialectics)
Marx captured the expansive nature and logic of capitalism as a system in what he called “the general formula of capital,” or M-C-M′. In a simple commodity economy, money exists merely as an intermediary to facilitate exchange between distinct commodities associated with definite use values, or C-M-C. The exchange begins with one use value and ends with another, with the consumption of the final commodity constituting the end of the process. Capitalism, however, takes the form of M-C-M′, with money (M) being exchanged for labor and material means of production with which to produce a new commodity (C), to be exchanged for more money (M′), which realizes the original value plus added value, i.e., surplus value or profit (M + Δ m). Here the process does not logically end with the receipt of M′. Rather the profit is reinvested so that it leads in the next phase to M-C-M′′, and then to M-C-M′′′, in an unending sequence only interrupted by periodic economic crises. Capital in this conception is nothing but self-expanding value, and is indistinguishable from the drive to accumulate on an ever-increasing scale: “Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!”
This ceaseless drive for the amassing of greater and greater wealth, requiring more and more consumption of energy and resources, and generating more waste, constitutes “the absolute general law of environmental degradation under capitalism.” Today the scale of the human economy has become so large that its everyday activities, such as carbon dioxide emissions and freshwater use, now threaten the fundamental biogeochemical processes of the planet.
Ecological analysis points quite irrefutably to the fact that we are up against the earth’s limits. Not only is continued exponential economic growth no longer possible for any length of time, but also it is necessary to reduce the ecological footprint of the world economy. And since there is no such thing as an absolute decoupling of the economy from ecological consumption this means the size of the world economy must also not increase; instead, it must decrease in size. On top of this and reinforcing this dilemma, the world economy must wean itself entirely from fossil fuels as an energy source—before the one trillion metric ton (and hopefully before the 750 billionth metric ton) of carbon is emitted into the atmosphere. Yet without the subsidy of fossil fuels a continuation of world-capitalist-industrial economy in its present form will prove impossible.
— The Planetary Emergency
In every revolution there intrude, at the side of its true agents, men of different stamp; some of them survivors of and devotees to past revolutions, without insight into the present movement, but preserving popular influence by their known honesty and courage, or by the sheer force of tradition; others mere brawlers who, by dint of repeating year after year the same set of stereotyped declarations against the government of the day, have sneaked into the reputation of revolutionists of the first water. After March 18, some such men did also turn up, and in some cases contrived to play pre-eminent parts. As far as their power went, they hampered the real action of the working class, exactly as men of that sort have hampered the full development of every previous revolution. They are an unavoidable evil: with time they are shaken off; but time was not allowed to the Commune.
Karl Marx, ‘The Paris Commune’ (via aidsnegligee)
“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch. The growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has become unreason, and right wrong, is only proof that in the modes of production and exchange changes have silently taken place with which the social order, adapted to earlier economic conditions, is no longer in keeping. From this it also follows that the means of getting rid of the incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present, in a more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production themselves. These means are not to be invented by deduction from fundamental principles, but are to be discovered in the stubborn facts of the existing system of production.”
— Fredrich Engels, Socialism:Utopian and Scientific (1880)
(Source: wilnyc, via basedlenin-deactivated20120831)
When Marx described all of history as the history of class struggle, he gave us the idea of emancipation as a continuous struggle, a project with a deep past and an extended future. In this way, he countered the notion – central to the liberal tradition – that we are already free, or that we live in “free societies.” Further, Marx is the only thinker who has provided a clear and lucid theory of capitalism, a social system organized through the division of capital and labor.
Why America Needs the Left
› Capitalism, the infernal machine | Fredric Jameson
In a footnote in Grundrisse [the notebooks that preceded Volume One of Capital] Marx says it is not until we reach the confines of the world market that a world revolution, a socialist revolution, becomes foreseeable. By that he means that when gradually around the world all of these other forms of labour will have been replaced by wage labour and thus the profits they produce will have been replaced by capital (from surplus value).
What happens when capital reaches a contradiction or a crisis? There is a breakdown movement. In the book I write that capitalism is “a peculiar machine whose evolution is at one with its breakdown, its expansion at one with its malfunction, its growth with its collapse.” The breakdown of the system is given in the expansion of the system. You’ve used up your peasantry and made them into farmers, then they become unemployed, the system moves along trying to get cheaper and cheaper labour, finally it reaches a point where there isn’t any cheap labour any more, but at the same time there isn’t anyone to buy all these products.
I think we’re in a position now to see that much better than they were in the 20th century. Once you touch the boundaries of the world market then capitalism can’t really expand any further. Now we are not at that point. Yet, better than in Marx’s own time we can see the limits of the situation approaching. That is the moment when the system becomes intolerable and it becomes clear that the system either has to break down or be replaced with something else. [read whole]
› Love for Sale: Birth Control from Marx to Mises | Corey Robin
In On the Jewish Question, Marx famously critiques liberal theorists of religious freedom on the grounds that they merely wish to emancipate the state from religion. Assuming—wrongly, it turns out—that the 19th century state, or at least the American state, had indeed been fully emancipated from religion (e.g., there was no official state religion, no specific confessional requirement for the exercise of political rights, etc.), Marx notes that the American people are nevertheless quite religious. This leads him to the observation that “to be politically emancipated from religion is not to be finally and completely emancipated from religion, because political emancipation is not the final and absolute form of human emancipation.” We may be free of religion at the level of the state, but we are not free of it in our everyday life (like most Enlightenment thinkers, Marx thinks of religion as a defect). To be truly free of it, we need to emancipate ourselves from religion, to shift our focus from the state to society itself, to get past the distinction between our public lives and private selves. Not just in matters of religion, as it turns out, but in other areas as well.
President Obama’s recent “compromise” over contraception—where religious-based employers like Catholic universities and hospitals are required to provide insurance coverage that includes free birth control but are not required to pay for it, leaving insurers to eat the costs; churches and other explicitly religious institutions will remain exempt from the provision—makes me wonder if we’re not moving in the reverse direction.
98% of sexually active Catholic women essentially reject the Church’s position on contraception. In this respect at least, society has emancipated itself from religion. Even so, the state allows its policies to be dictated by the Church elders. And judging by the growing Republican discontent with even this compromise, the state’s capitulation to religion and religious sensibilities could get worse. Keep in mind, as Katha Pollitt points out, that we are not talking about isolated sects like the Amish, which don’t depend on all manner of tax subsidies and public monies for their operations; these are large-scale institutions that would not exist in their current form were it not for the state’s ongoing support.