Treat Everyone Like a Valentine

Marx, Saint-Simon, and Owen both address the inherent issues of capitalism. In his writing of “Estranged Labour”, Marx suggests that the worker will never be satisfied because of labor’s “alienation.” As workers produce more, the owners and employers take in the product and become wealthier—the workers gain little. Individuals work for survival purposes; they do not partake in labor because of any passion or interest. Because the worker gains nothing except for the ability to survive, the worker becomes alien to not only himself, but society. The worker is merely a “product” of nature ((Karl Marx, Estranged Labour)). Saint-Simon argues that hard work and honesty do not always lead to success. Because of the “struggle to the death,” ((Comte de Saint-Simon, The Incoherence and Disorder of Industry)) only a small number of individuals will succeed and all the rest will fall. This, in turn, leads to some individuals who do not succeed to partake in immoral acts such as lying and stealing in order to gain an advantage and acquire more wealth. While these two authors write about the struggles capitalism creates, Robert Owen suggests in his short chapter that workers should not accept the injustice they face in capitalistic society. Owen argues that workers should unionize and protest their injustices, while at the same time calling for the wealthy and the intelligent to change society because they have the ability to do so. ((Robert Owen, The Legacy of Robert Owen to the Population of the World))

Today (you knew that was coming), the top 1% of society take in the majority of the wealth. As a result, millions of Americans, and citizens abroad, suffer from poverty. While many individuals engage in unionization and protests, their actions do not carry enough weight to change capitalistic society. But their voices have volume. Millions of people around the world, including public officials and administrators, are listening. The unfortunate thing is, though, only the wealthy have the means to actually enact new laws and new ways of life. Yes, I’m going to mentioned Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ idea of democratic socialism appeals to millions of Americans because of its capacity for opportunity and equality. Sanders, Marx, and Saint-Simon all have similar visions of an equally successful society. I thought that Owen’s writing best illuminates the state of our society today. In his invigorating, passionate tone, he called for the wealthy to come together and give everyone a chance. Today, millions of individuals including Sanders are urging the wealthy to change their money grubbing ways in order to create opportunity for all citizens. Overall, the issues of capitalism plague our society, and individuals such as Sanders are doing their best job to do something about it.

Is capitalism the most ideal system, or is it bound to fail?

Are we afraid to change are capitalistic society?

Where are we going? Will things change?

Dehumanized: the Individual in Regards to Industry

Karl Marx’s “Estranged Labour” details the ruthless system that is ‘The Money System.’  This system strikes chords similar to those of Thomas Hobbes’ theory on the state of nature where every human is in competition with one another; Marx states that “the political economy promotes greed and competition amongst the greedy” ((Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844))  which adds a layer of economy to Hobbes’ theory.  However, Marx takes it yet another step forward by asserting the dehumanization of those who work in industry.  He asserts “The worker puts his life into the object; but now his life no longer belongs to him but to the object” ((Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844)) and “the greater this product, the less is he himself.” ((Marx, Estranged Labour, 1844))In both these statements, Marx is alluding to the loss of individual identity within the confines of industry, as the owners of these industries are only concerned with the money they will be making through these people, and not their individual interests.

Marx could not be more correct with making these assumptions of the human identity.  As individuals become more engrossed in their mundane work, they lose what makes them different from others.  With this loss of identity comes the loss of a person’s interests in the workplace; their industrial occupations have become mind-numbing tasks that have become solely a means for currency; there is no other purpose for them to be at the job aside from providing a way of survival.

Although Marx’s summations of industry are grim, they are true.  One can even see Marx’s assertions about the individual working in industry in today’s world with entry level jobs found in food service or retail sale; many people work those jobs for no other benefit than accruing cash.  How many people actually worked at McDonalds over the summer because they loved being around those deep fryers all day?  A single person’s interests are not a priority in the eyes of big businesses; their goal is to make as much money at as little cost as possible.

How, if at all possible, could industry conditions be improved?  What implications would this have on the entire industrial system?

Also as a side note it was unclear to me what Marx explained in section XXV of this reading where he wrote about who owns the product of labor.  I understand it was somewhat abstract, but could somebody please clarify the first few paragraphs for me?  Specifically the concept of the ‘alien being.’

A Consequence of Capitalism

Comte de Saint-Simon disparaged laissez-faire industry in “The Incoherence and Disorder of Industry”, saying that capitalists are not concerned with the well being of society and are solely individuals looking to profit. This leads to men emphasizing their cunning and shrewdness and leading them to be “lost to humanity”. ((Comte de Saint-Simon, The Incoherence and Disorder of Industry)) Marx took an equally negative stance on capitalism in “Estranged Labor” although he chose to focus on the worker and not the capitalist. Marx argued that every step of the production process estranges the worker from the product they are creating, as the more the worker produces, the less he is able to possess. The worker is also estranged from the process of production, as Marx writes, “labor produces for the rich wonderful things – but for the worker it produces privation”. ((Karl Marx, Estranged Labor 1844. Workers are estranged through the process of production as they are not affirmed by their work and they do not enjoy it. Marx wrote that as men are alienated from their work their labor becomes forced labor, therefore workers only feel completely free when performing animal functions, such as eating, drinking and procreating.

Marx and Saint-Simon highlight similar issues with how capitalism impacts interpersonal relationships. Saint-Simon points out that men are inherently competitive and that this leads them to enter a potentially lucrative industry, creating a few successful men and many who are completely ruined. In a similar vein, Marx discusses the estrangement between men as those who produce are under the dominion of those who own the means of production. This creates a dichotomy between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in terms of who wields the most influence in society and has the most opportunity.

Marx and Saint-Simon were both writing near the nineteenth century when the Industrial Revolution was impacting many different areas. Many of the problems they identified with capitalism are still present in society today, is there any way to correct for these issues or reduce their impact? Is today’s society reducing the divisions between workers and owners or are the divisions growing?

Marx on Estranged Labour

Karl Marx is a German author who is most famous for writing the Communist Manifesto with Fredrick Engels. He was a German who wrote on the final socialist revolution after the industrial revolution began to take off in the mid 19th century. Marx also wrote specifically on the plight of the worker from which he derived his Manifesto. Estranged Labor is essentially a treatise on how the worker is treated in the new industrial society.

Marx begins to talk about how the worker has power over his job as he is specialized into his field, however the better he does his job, the more power he is giving to his bosses. He does this by producing more and more as time goes on. This begins to translate into excess profit as the worker performs his job better and better allowing for the industry to hire more workers at lower wages, and consequently cut those of the original employee.

Marx speaks specifically about workers becoming part of a very objectified system, becoming materials, or resources in the eyes of the industry that they built. Workers during the industrial revolution are objectified like that of the raw materials that are essential for manufacturing.

Marx writes to make the point that the workers are the foundation of the new progressive industrial society, but that they are not revered as the true cogs of the machine. Rather they are replaced like one would replace a broken piece of furniture. The working class which is the quintessential part of the new world order, is objectified and given no rights or privileges as they are under the yoke of Capitalism. Marx advocates that revolution is necessary for the workers to receive what they deserve in a society where the work that they do is revered rather then taken off the assembly line without any appreciation or consideration given to the people who made possible the capitalist engine. Marx advocates that worker’s socialism would be the best system because capitalism is essentially an oppression of the masses with the proletariat caught under the weight of corporations.

Capitalism and its critics

  1. The Legacy of Robert Owen to the Population of the World – Robert Owen (1834)
    1. Author
      1. Robert Owen (1771-1858)
      2. English cotton manufacturer
      3. “Utopian” socialist
      4. Advocated for universal education for children and workers’ rights
    2.  Context
      1. Owen is addressing members of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of Great Britain and Ireland
      2. Written during a time of rebellion
    3. Language
      1. Negative and outraged at the foundations of society.
    4. Audience
      1. For people in rebellion of the unjust system put in place.
    5. Intent
      1. To have people ignore the system and the ideas it puts in individuals. Advocate the value of man and producers of wealth.
    6. Message
      1. Society creates evil and prevents the good that man is evidently destined for.
  2. The Incoherence and Disorder of Industry- Comte de Saint-Simon
    1. Author:
      1. Claude Henri de Rouvroy – Comte de Saint-Simon
      2. European observer of early industrialization
    2. Context
      1. Written during the French Revolution for people of the Third Estate.
    3. Language
      1. Positive and persuasive writing.
    4. Audience
      1. His fellow commoners of the third estate.
    5. Intent
      1. Change the economic system that is intended on destroying your enemies to gain wealth, happiness and glory.
    6. Message
      1. The system needs to be changed to address the needs of the commoners.
  3. Estranged Labour – Karl Marx (1844)
    1. Author
      1. Karl Marx
      2. German philosopher and revolutionary socialist
      3. Created Marxism
    2.  Context
      1. Marx set out to develop a theory of Socialism grounded in a better understanding of both economics and philosophy.
      2. Analyzes labor industry and how its cycle affects workers.
    3. Language
      1. Positive and assertive, using economic facts and to assert his ideas.
    4. Audience
      1. Meant for intellectuals and people that are in the workforce.
      2. The commoner and the proletariat
    5. Intent
      1. To demonstrate alienation as the idea that human beings can become out of sync with the world they live in arguing that alienation arises from the way human beings regard their own labor.
    6. Message
      1. The products don’t belong to the worker. The more the worker produces, the less the worker has.


Early Socialist Thinkers: Owen, Saint-Simon, and Marx

1.) “The Legacy of Robert Owen to the Population of the World”

Author: Robert Owen. Welsh cotton manufacturer. Utopian socialist and a founder of the cooperative movement. Founder of (failed) New Harmony colony in the U.S. Had a vision of an ideal society.

Context: Great Britain, 1844. Industrial Revolution. Many of the Factory Acts were in place, including many that regulated child labor.

Language: Persuasive, confident, hopeful

Audience: The Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of Great Britain and Ireland

Intent: To persuade listeners to begin a bloodless revolution driven by morality and wisdom.

Message: A complete reworking of society was necessary. “Men of industry” should unite to begin the bloodless revolution that will lead to a new and improved state of human existence.

Why?: Many factory owners during the Industrial Revolution abused their workers with long hours, unsafe conditions, and low wages. Owen ran his factories more benevolently and saw a utopic vision in which all of society was based on moral correctness and wisdom.

2.) “The Incoherence and Disorder of Society”

Author: Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon. French political and economic theorist. Businessman. Believed in a meritocracy. Fought in the American Revolution. Supporter of French Revolution and imprisoned during the Reign of Terror.

Context: Saint-Simon lived in France under Napoleon and during the Bourbon Restoration (constitutional monarchy). Frequent occurrences of civil unrest.

Language: Passionate, sarcastic at times, easy to read

Audience: The industrial class–everyone engaged in productive work.

Intent: Disprove the principle behind laissez-faire economics. Advocate for a meritocracy.

Message: Industry needed to address the needs of the industrial class. Economics cannot be focused merely on statistics; society needs to take care of people and their needs.

Why?: Saint-Simon fought in the American Revolution, and his time in America likely exposed him to a society with fewer class distinctions than the one in which he lived. He also supported the French Revolution’s principles of equality, liberty, and fraternity, and his own work argues in favor of these principles as well. The Bourbon Restoration provided a more conservative government to France, and Saint-Simon may have reacted against his government’s conservative attitudes.

3.) “Estranged Labor” from Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

Author: Karl Marx. German philosopher, economist, and socialist. Moved to Paris in 1843. Prolific Writer. Father of Marxism.

Context: Marx lived in France during the July Monarchy, which was a time of liberal constitutional monarchy. Paris was the de facto headquarters for revolutionaries from all over Europe.

Language: Challenging to follow, very convoluted arguments, passionate tone

Audience: The intended audience (workers; the common man) likely differs from the audience who would be capable of actually comprehending Marx’s argument (academics and philosophers).

Intent: Turn society against capitalism.

Message: Capitalism hurts the laboring class because the more wealth a worker produces, the poorer he becomes. He is alienated from his product and estranged from himself. Society is divided into these propertyless workers and the owners of that property.

Why?: Other economic thinkers of the time, such as Ludwig Feuerbach influenced Marx, and he lived in Paris at a time when revolutionary minds filled the city. The July Monarchy followed the more conservative Bourbon Restoration, bringing a more liberal view into focus. Marx met many people who shared his views, and his views fermented and strengthened in this atmosphere.



Marx Contrasting Smith

In the writings of the Compte de Sainte Simon, Robert Owens, and Karl Marx, an alternate perspective- other than laissez faire capitalism- regarding industry is approached. Adam Smith- a strong proponent of the productivity that the division of labor supplied the economy- stated that industrial perspectives were the ideal way to support the economy. However, these three writers offer contrasting perspectives that certainly align more with socialism. In “Estranged Labour,” written in 1844, Marx specifically discusses how these economic changes towards industry will actually cause a cultural collapse. Instead of the idea that Smith discusses where industry will expand our economy through efficiency, Marx notes that this move will actually sever the two classes, of which only one will economically benefit. Smith’s focus of production proves to Marx that the quantity of production has overshadowed the quality of lives of those producing the goods. Marx sees that society will become even more divided and the property and factory owners will excel- be able to buy afford more, have more choice due to expanded production, etc- and yet those doing the producing will see none of the benefits of what they create. The gap between the classes will be entirely exacerbated as the workers will never live in the type of society that the goods they produce belong to. Not only does these create an economic gap, but also a largely societal one where the owners and the producers cannot relate on a basic human level: the owner does not respect the worker and the worker resents the owner.

When looking at Marx’s theory of the alienation of the workers and the owners, it is evident that these issues still exist. However, instead of simply having one owner and many workers in a community, the workers that are isolated from society are out of sight in other countries that are easy to exploit and the citizens of wealthy, western nations serve the role of the owners. Our nations’s wealth provides access to the products that the workers slave all day to make, yet they would never be able to afford those products. They work their whole day to create a society they will never live in. In a world that understands both Smith and Marx, have we consciously chosen that exploitation of others because we truly believe in Smith and laissez faire or because Marx is inconvenient?