For any regular individual on a regular paying fulltime job, the early mornings they have to make it work, the long working hours, unfavorable working conditions, all to end up with a regular check present the endless agony they go through in the hands of their bosses as each day passes. The modern capitalistic world has made conventional the notion of the rich getting richer and poor drowning deep within their poverty. It is clear that the efforts put by the working class do not correspond to the rewards they accrue from their work, and this is full proof of the irregularities that many employers force as the way things should and must be. However, it does not have to be this way. Among the few individuals who sought to address this issue was Karl Marx, a pioneer, and supporter of communism. Communism, according to Marx, would lay a level ground for all individuals to reap where they sow and eradicate the existence of social classes brought forth by a few individuals in society holding the means of production. To get to his point, Marx explored the correlations between capital and labor, and the ratios through which these two vital economic processes impacted on the other. Labor, according to Marx, is a constituent of capital, and capital a component of labour. Therefore, an imbalance between these two entities would lead to exaggerated social inequality, and hence the genesis of social classes. This paper, thus, takes an in-depth critical analysis of the relationship between the cost of labor and capital as broken down by Karl Marx, and concisely brings out the labor-capital correspondence in the contemporary workplaces, as well as the supposed living conditions of the working population relative to that of the business owners.
Before getting too deep into the issue of the working and living conditions of workers, it would be logical first to state the value of labor, to find a reference point later in the discussion. In any production process, three things are of vitality, the raw materials, the capital and the labor with the anticipated ends products being a finished and ready-to-consume product, profit and wages. Therefore, the ratio in which these elements combine dictates the end products each is going to attain. While the first two entities can be quantified, and consequently the value added easily calculated, the cost or value of labor is often a complicated issue. Marx, therefore, attempted to quantify labor to gauge the anticipated outcome and compare it to the actual reward of labor. Labor is a product of the training, and expertise employed the laborer. It can also be equated to the value added on a commodity after the cost of the raw material and the capital are deducted. This, therefore, means that is an employee works on a food product for instance, and the value of capital is ten dollar, the raw materials three dollars and the final price of the commodity twenty dollars, the value of that labor is seven dollars.
It is however common, to find a scenario where a company valued at a billion dollars offers its employees a couple of hundreds or thousands of dollars within a specified amount of time. This scenario does not represent the rationale mentioned above for valuing labor. Work contracts dominate the contemporary workplaces, and whatever the agreement between the employer, or the bourgeoisie as Marx termed them, and the employees, the proletariats, is, it is followed to the latter without considering the value the employee adds to the business. These contracts also existed in the 19th century, as a laborer would avail their labor power at an agreed rate of pay, say half the value added to the final product. Like the commodities that labor produces, the latter is as much affected by demand and supply as the former. A surplus in the supply of labor makes the demand limited to cater for the excess, and therefore causes the price of labor, as in labor wages and salaries, to fall incredibly.
A fall in demand of labor, coupled up with a fall in the prices of the same all point out to low standards of living and unemployment. These two repercussions are profoundly felt in workplaces all over the world, as business owners strive to maximize their profit margins at the expense of the workers. Marx never incorporated profits in his theories on capitalism and communism, a throwback on his side, but this does not eliminate the fact that most of these margins are often too wide and unrealistic. In many cases, employees find themselves in situations where they cannot afford the goods they produce. As Marx outlined, people work to satisfy their needs, and these needs come in the forms of the commodities they, and their fellow laborers produce. Labour can, therefore, be equated to the commodities and needs that laborers seek to satisfy. In the long-run, these working-class individuals can rarely afford to live their lives, and hence the emergence of social issues likes homelessness. Take an instance of a working individual spending more than 50% of their income on rent and other housing fees. With time, they might withdraw from spending on housing to cater for other needs. A change in the capital also had an impact on the value of labor as human skills were gradually replaced with machines and other technologically advanced methods and devices.
The light that Marx shed on the anticipated threats due to the rise of capitalism has born so much relevance in the twenty-first century, as many theorists and governments have strived to evade the extinction of the working class. The contracts could never prove effective, as some employees were exploited due to their needs or ignorance. The United States Department of labor, for instance, came up with the fair labor standards act, which limits the appropriate minimum wage for an employee at 7.25 dollars for the hour. Other laws are also in place to shield the employee against any discrimination before getting the job, during the interview and after acquiring the position. Employees are entitled to have their unions to fight for their rights, they are granted the democratic rights to vote in the management they would wish to be under, and if anything goes wrong, as with the cases of discrimination and a breach of contract, they are entitled to a court hearing. The capitalistic economy is gradually exhibiting limitations and barriers to exercise their full powers over the unsuspecting employees.
Karl Marx was a philosopher who was passionate about seeing the world as a place where every human being had a shot at succeeding and equitable access to the resources around them. Business, aside from availing goods and offering services, exist for profit. Therefore, it is logical for a company to take part in the employees added value for its own, and giving them a portion of it too. However, some of the owners often take advantage of the surplus in labor, to discriminate upon workers. Technology added yet another nail on the wound by rendering the human labor irrelevant in the workplace. With workers facing all these threats, most of them could take the bread-crumps of wages offered by the limited jobs available. This is capitalism at work. However, to limit the monopoly of the business owners, government agencies had to impose laws that give the workers a say on these occurrences, among them the minimum wage act and the employees' rights act.
Engels F. Works of Karl Marx 1847: Wage, capital and labor. Neue Rheinische Zeitung. 1849.
Granell J. Karl Marx; wage labor and capital. Socialist Worker. 2018. http://www.socialistworkeronline.net/karl-marx-wage-labour-and-capital/
United States Department of labor. Minimum wage. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/minimumwage
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