by Karl Marx
We have proceeded from the premises of political economy. We have accepted its language and its laws. We presupposed private property, the separation of labour, capital and land and of wages, profit of capital and rent of land--likewise division of labour, competition, the concept of exchange-value, etc. On the basis of political economy itself, in its own words, we have shown that the worker sinks to the level of a commodity and becomes indeed the most wretched of commodities; that the wretchedness of the worker is inverse proportion to the power and magnitude of his production; that the necessary, result of competition is the accumulation of capital in a few hands, and thus the restoration of monopoly in a more terrible form; that finally the distinction between capitalist and land-renter, like that between the tiller of the soil and the factory-worker, disappears and that the whole of society must fall apart into the two classes--the property-owners and the propertyless workers.
Political economy proceeds from the fact of private property, but it does not explain it to us. It expresses in general, abstract formulae the material process through which private property actually passes, and these formulae it then takes for Iaws. It does not comprehend these laws--i.e., it does not demonstrate how they arise from the very nature of private property. Political economy does not disclose the source of the division between labor and capital, and between capital and land. When, for example, it defines the relationship of wages to profit, it takes the interest of the capitalists to be the ultimate cause; i.e., it takes for granted what it is supposed to evolve. Similarly, competition comes in everywhere. It is explained from external circumstances. As to how far these external and apparently fortuitous circumstances are but the expression of a necessary course of development, political economy teaches us nothing. We have seen how, to it, exchange itself appears to be a fortuitous fact. The only wheels which political economy sets in motion are avarice and the war amongst the avaricious-- competition.
Precisely because political economy does not grasp the connections within the movement, it was impossible to counterpose, for instance, the doctrine of competition to the doctrine of monopoly, the doctrine of craft-liberty to the doctrine of the corporation, the doctrine of the division of landed property to the doctrine of the big estate--for competition, craft-liberty and the division of landed property were explained and comprehended only as fortuitous, premeditated and violent consequences of monopoly, the corporation, and feudal property, not as their necessary, inevitable and natural consequences.
Now, therefore, we have to grasp, the essential connection between private property, avarice, and the separation of labour, capital and landed property; between exchange and competition, value and tile devaluation of men, monopoly and competition, etc.; the connection between this whole estrangement and the money system.
Do not let us go back to a fictitious primordial condition as the political economist does, when he tries to explain. Such a primordial condition explains nothing. He merely pushes the question away into a grey nebulous distance. He assumes in the form of fact, of an event, what he is supposed to deduce-namely, the necessary relationship between two things: between, for example, division of labour and exchange. Theology: in the same way explains the origin of evil by the fall of man: that is, it assumes as a fact, in historical form, what has to he explained.
We proceed from an actual economic fact.
The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity tile more commodities he creates. 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 a commodity--and does so in tile proportion in which it produces commodities generally.
This fact expresses merely that the object which labour produces--labours product--confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labour is labour which has been congealed in an object, which has become material; it is the objectification of labour. Labour's realization is Its objectification. In the conditions dealt with by political economy! this realization of labour appears as loss of reality for the workers; objectification as loss of the object and object-bondage appropriation as estrangement,; as alienation.
So much does labour's realization appear as loss of reality that the worker loses reality to the point of starving to death. So much does objectification appear as loss of the object that the worker is robbed of the objects most necessary not only for his life but for his work. Indeed, labour itself becomes an object which he can get hold of only with the greatest effort and with the most irregular interruptions. So much does the appropriation of the object appear as estrangement that the more objects the worker produces the fewer can he possess and the more he falls under the dominion of his product, capital.
All these consequences are contained in the definition that the worker is related to the product of his labour as to an alien object. For on this premise it is clear that the more the worker spends himself, the more powerful the alien objective world becomes which he creates over-against himself, the poorer he himself--his inner world--becomes, the less belongs to him as his own. It is the same in religion. The more man puts into God, the less he retains in himself. The worker puts his life into the object; but now his life no longer belongs to him but to the object. Hence, the greater this activity, the greater is the worker's lack of objects. Whatever the product of his labour is, he is not. Therefore the greater this product, the less is he himself. The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labour becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that it becomes a power of its own confronting him; it means that the life which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien.
Let us now look more closely at the objectification, at the production of the worker; and therein at the estrangement, the loss of the object, his product. The worker can create nothing without nature, without the sensuous external world. It is the material on which his labor is manifested, in which it is active, from which and by means of which it produces.
But just as nature provides labor with the means of life in the sense that labour cannot live without objects on which to operate, on the other hand, it also provides the means of life in the more restricted sense--i.e., the means for the physical subsistence of the worker himself.
Thus the more the worker by his labour appropriates the external world, sensuous nature, the more he deprives himself of the means of life in the double respect: first, that the sensuous external world more and more ceases to be an object belonging to his labour--to be his labour's means of life; and secondly, that it more and more ceases to be means of life in the immediate sense, means for the physical subsistence of the worker.
Thus in this double respect the worker becomes a slave of his object, first, in that he receives an object of labour, etc. in that he receives work; and secondly, in that he receives means of subsistence. Therefore, it enables him to exit!, first, as a worker; and, second, as a physical subject. The extremity of this bondage is that it is only as a worker that he continues to maintain himself as a physical subject, and that it is only as a physical subject that he is a worker.
(The laws of political economy express the estrangement of the worker in his object thus: the more the worker produces, the less he has to consume; the more values he creates, the more valueless, the more unworthy he becomes; the better formed his product, the more deformed becomes the worker; the more civilized his object, the more barbarous becomes the worker; tile mightier labour becomes, the more powerless becomes the worker; the more ingenious labour becomes, the duller becomes the worker and the more he becomes nature's bondsman.)
Political economy conceals the estrangement inherent in the nature of labour by not considering the direct relationship between the worker (labour) and production. It is true that labour produces for the rich wonderful things--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 some of the workers it throws back to a barbarous type of labour, and the other workers it turns into machines. It produces intelligence--but for the worker idiocy, cretinism.
The direct relationship of labour to its produces is the relationship of the worker to the objects of his production. The relationship of the man of means to the objects of production and to production itself is only a consequence of this first relationship--and confirms it. We shall consider this other aspect later.
When we ask, then, what is the essential relationship of labour we are asking about the relationship of the worker to production.
Till now we have been considering the estrangement, the alienation of the worker only in one of its aspects, i.e, the worker's relationship to the products of his labour. But the estrangement is manifested not only in the result but in the act of production--within the producing activity itself. How would the worker come to face the product of his activity as a stranger, were it not that in the very act of production he was estranging himself from himself! The product is after all but the summary of the activity of production.