Concept of Justice

September 20, 2001

The early Marx

Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

Early Marx often contrasted to later Marx

Estranged labor

What does alienation mean? What are some things it can mean?

What Marx means by it:

layers of meaning:

product taken away from worker

worker feels exploited

worker does not work for its own sake, but to live

extreme alienation: what you do serves your enemy

loss of self, human qualities


Will discuss economic and psychological aspects of alienation

Economic aspect of theory

1. p. 1 Starts from political economy

What is political economy? Economic theory as understood politically; eg. Adam Smith

What problems does Marx see with political economy?

- treats private property as a given, as a starting point, need to explain private property

Note he rejects the Lockean approach, state of nature, p. 1 next to last para. "imaginary primordial condition"

s of n assumes relations rather than deducing them

last line p. 1, Marx will begin from fact - what fact does he begin from?

-workers becoming poorer (19th cent.) with increased industrialization

Marx says worker himself produced as a commodity

Commodity - meaning? (Something bought & sold)

In what sense is the worker a commodity?

Compare to earlier pre-industrial society

Increasing commodification, including treating of persons as commodities

Objectification, p. 2 para. 2

product of labor is something alien to the worker

product is objectification of labor -- solidified labor


Estrangement = loss of object, para. 3 p. 2

how does worker lose the product? What does he mean?

AThe more the worker spends himself, the more powerful the alien objective world becomes@

what does he mean by the statement, Awork itself becomes an object which he can get hold of only with the greatest effort@?

the more he produces, the less he can possess

commentary on development of industrialization; workers poorer than ever

overall - the class of workers

workers producing more, yet poorer; thus must be enrichment of someone else, p. 6

who else? Capitalist

workers labor for the enrichment of capitalists, and themselves become impoverished

but is impoverishment of workers his main concern? End of p. 7

raising wages ---> better paid slave

NB even equality of wages does not resolve estrangement of labor, p. 35

so what is the essential aspect in economic terms?

p. 78

Product of labor belongs to other men

someone else master of the object

labor under yoke of another man p. 6 end

labor as alienating:

creates object for others

engenders his own loss

and the relation of the nonworker to the object

worse: the more he works, the more powerful the capitalist becomes (as result of the wealth produced by the worker) - see p. 33

private property is the consequence of alienated labor, p. 34

can you have private property without alienated labor? Everyone keeps own product, or trades it

can you have alienated labor without private property? -- clearly not

Marx seems to say that if people did not engage in alienated labor, there would not be private property; alienated labor produces private property and the property relations that make it possible

perhaps private property in the sense of capital; clearly capital would not be possible without alienated labor

Political economy doesn=t consider direct relationship between worker and production:

look not at objects created for wealthy but those created for worker

appears to be the source, but is really the consequence; just as gods appear to be the cause, but are actually the consequence, of intellectual confusion

[note dialectical relation] p. 34

where there is private property, there are wages - and vice versa

where there are wages, labor is not an end in itself (psych. aspect)

emancipation of workers ---> human emancipation

labor theory of value and surplus value

how is profit possible? If I buy raw materials at their value, and buy labor at its value, then sell product at its value, where does the profit come in? does capitalist sell for more than its value?

worker sells his labor power, adding value to raw materials

but to "produce labor" only requires subsistence of worker

Capitalist seeks to pay worker subsistence, worker to get full value of his labor

Psychological aspect of argument

Alienation - what kinds of things does Marx say about psychological alienation?

increase in objects impoverishes inner life, p.

creation of object as power against him; as alien and hostile, p. 6 end

loss of self, top of page 4

labor is external to the worker; not part of his essential being

quote p. 3 end

Ain work he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind@

work is therefore forced labor, p. 31

sense of coercion as marx uses it here?

Labor of self sacrifice

not his own, but someone else=s

it belongs to another; therefore it is the loss of his self. (Combined psych/econ. arg)

Describe work you would find as least alienating, most alienating

What are the essential attributes of non-alienating labor?

Ends of another that you don=t share

most alienating: work done for ends you oppose, for enemy

(work that engages Aprivate@ aspects of self; Asale of personality@; more on this later)

Marx: Aloss of self,@ p. 31

Marx=s conception of self, human, in relation to labor

Work done as end in itself

Truly human activity -- work done freely, in absence of need

Man and nature

What is relation between man and nature according to Marx?

nature necessary for life and labor, pp. 30

appropriation of nature through labor reduces availability of natural resources (?) -- hence less is left for subsistence and for labor

slave of object -- now not nature, but manufactured goods, are the basis of life

physically lives on nature

man linked to nature; nature is his Ainorganic@ body, p. 4

man universal in this (?) sense

estranged labor separates man from nature -- how?

1. Productive life appears as merely a means of satisfying a need (rather than as an end in itself)

a. man distinguished from animals by conscious life-activity

b. Man produces even when free from physical need, and truly produces only when free from physical need, p.

c. Can produce things according to external standard such as beauty

d. labor produces the world as man=s (own) world, his own reality

e. Removing product from person removes from him his species-life, that which separates him from animals

AEstranged labor makes man=s species-life a means to his physical existence@

estranges man=s own body from him as a human person

everything is owned - by someone else

cannot even work (no access to raw materials)

Man as a species-being: what does this mean? P. 4

Sense of self as part of a larger whole

cf. Sartre, each of our actions helps to define what it is to be human

He adopts the species as his object, p. 4

He treats himself as universal

meaning of this

Marx sees estranged labor as depriving man of the essential qualities that make him human

Is the capitalist then Atruly human@?

General nature of private property in relation to truly human, social property


private property embraces the relation of the non worker to the worker and his labor

On part of nonworker, alienation appears in an attenuated form, p. 36


What is needed to resolve alienation? Are we stuck with it?

What would show Marx wrong about alienation? Psychological? Economic?

Economic alienation true by defn.; can only argue it isn=t important

have to quarrel with Marx=s conception of what it means to be human, importance of self-actuated work

Psychological alienation: could show that people don=t feel this way (but clearly they do)

Possibly resolve by identity of ends between worker and capitalist; we will see Marx argue that their ends are necessarily opposed, a zero-sum game


Power of Money

do you agree with Marx about the power of money?

Is this a bad thing?

Why does he think it would be better if money did not have such power?

what things do we regard as not for sale?

Sex (possibly) - note recent arguments that it=s just another way of making a living



political principles -- what is the contemporary tendency?

People/Children (Posner, ASelling Babies@)

Reduction in the sphere of the non-saleable; stewardess example

spilling over of business functions into social; social relations used to promote business

tendency to believe that everything can be reduced to its cash value

wedding presents; Atrade@ of expensive reception for gifts

Marx points out that the logic of political economy is that everything should be for sale; ethics in contradiction with this

stresses between economic system and values it promotes vs. ethical system and its values

two ways of looking at every transaction: Agood guy@/Asucker@

e.g., suppose you are about to buy from me a painting that you like the look of, but that we both regard as unremarkable; then you accidentally discover it has great monetary value

what should you do? Tell me or not?

Note Marx as looking at overall social relations rather than at individual relations/transactions; contrast with Locke and Lockean tradition