Interchangeable Parts

“These workers, forced to sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, and all the fluctuations of the market.”

I chose this passage because it relates directly to the readings and class topics that have been discussed over the past week. It expresses very similar ideas to those of Oastler and Heine, and the tones are very similar to Marx’s estranged labor.

Marx notes the differences between classes and the shifts between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The lower tiers of the middle class, the tradespeople, morphed into the proletariat as technology made their trades obsolete. Marx argues that capitalism is inherently unstable and unsustainable because it wears down the proletariat and continues to exhaust its resources with no sign of slowing down. The members of the working class, regardless of age and sex, are treated as interchangeable parts in the capitalist system; they are a “commodity like every other article of commerce.” They are susceptible to all the uncertainties of the market and the demand for labor. Technology was improving rapidly and replacing human workers with gears and steam; not only was the worker treated as a disposable commodity in the market, he was also not guaranteed any security in his job whatsoever.The worker was paid barely enough wages to maintain his life. He did not earn enough money to acquire any personal property; he had to live under the roof of a landlord who exploited him further. This is Marx’s main argument for the abolition of private property rights. The vast majority of the population was already absolutely unable to acquire any private property, so this is in reality not a right at all, but a privilege reserved for the upper classes.

3 thoughts on “Interchangeable Parts

  1. I liked how you pointed out that the working class were treated as interchangeable parts. With the innovation of new technology came the down side Marx was talking about in capitalism. The worker becomes a possession and a piece of machinery themselves due to the exploitation of the factory owners.

  2. Good choice of quote. The point that the worker is commodified and exploited gives Marx a basis to promote his theory of communism. Because the proletariat has no private property, and no means to attain private property, they virtually have nothing to lose by supporting Marx and his fight against the bourgeoisie.

  3. The descriptions you provided explicitly state how the proletariat would become less incentivized to work as they simply appear to be “interchangeable parts in the capitalist system”- their lives are a means of production equal to any other commodity. This works directly towards Marx’s denial that communism will lessen the incentive to work because of the guaranteed rights of workers. From his perspective, it is the lack of humanity in the work place and the lack of those rights that cause workers to care less about their production.

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