A question on capitalism

11 posts / 0 new
Last post
xuan
Offline
Joined: 25-12-07
Dec 25 2007 07:29
A question on capitalism

Hi everyone.

My question is one that has likely been asked many times before, so if there is a quick link to a quick answer, please let me know.

Capitalism is basically the system of the owners taking for themselves the surplus value of their workers, right... My question is, what is necessarily wrong with that?

Let me explain. If person Y agrees to sell a disc to person Z for 5 dollars, and after the payment, person Z turns and sells that same disc for 10 dollars, is our person Y really entitled to a portion of the earnings? Or, said another way, has person Y really been cheated or robbed? My logic tells me no, because Y agreed to 5 dollars, and NOT a percentage of Z's profits. In fact, it seems to me that person Y, having sold the disc, can have no more claim to it at all; whatever our person Z does with it is entirely his own business.

I sympathize with Y; he only made 10 instead of 5 dollars, but having given away the right to his item for 5 dollars, he is merely misfortune, not a victim.

Is this logic flawed?

thanks

Xuan

thugarchist's picture
thugarchist
Offline
Joined: 26-11-06
Dec 25 2007 07:33

An intriguing question. Here is a good simple answer.

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Dec 25 2007 11:18

xuan I think the key is to look at the historically developed social relationship that forces Y to sell his capacity to work to Z. your logic is not flawed, it's just bourgeoisie logic.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Dec 25 2007 21:04
Khawaga wrote:
xuan I think the key is to look at the historically developed social relationship that forces Y to sell his capacity to work to Z. your logic is not flawed, it's just bourgeoisie logic.

no Khawaga, there's a problem with his scenario. He's outline a mercantile scenario.

With capitalism what you have is that you have Z, who owns a factory. Y is a worker, who owns nothing, and needs food/rent/stuff. So Z offers him work. Y makes 10 discs a day. Z sells them for $10, but only pays Y $10 a day to make them. The raw materials cost Z another $10 a day. So Y's labour is making Z $80, and there's nothing he can do to change the situation, because he doesn't have enough money to start a company to make stuff himself.

This is an unfair situation, you see?

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Dec 26 2007 00:33

You're right, the way you put it is better. The question xian posts though is pretty common, and it is often (in my experience anyway) put in nearly exactly those terms. It's all about that invisible hand moment, where the price of the worker is established between free and independent men both trying to get as much utility as their hearts desire.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Dec 26 2007 00:40
Khawaga wrote:
You're right, the way you put it is better. The question xian posts though is pretty common, and it is often (in my experience anyway) put in nearly exactly those terms. It's all about that invisible hand moment, where the price of the worker is established between free and independent men both trying to get as much utility as their hearts desire.

yes. the important thing for us is that the scenario involves a worker and a boss, not 2 people selling something.

xuan
Offline
Joined: 25-12-07
Dec 26 2007 02:38
thugarchist wrote:
An intriguing question. Here is a good simple answer.

Thanks for the facetious answer to my serious question.

John & Khawaga

Thanks for the real insight. Most of the theory is new to me. I just started picking through Marx, and I could tell that he was trying to exclaim outrage about wage labour, but I just couldn't put my finger on the fundamental problem.

xuan

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Dec 26 2007 12:05
xuan wrote:
thugarchist wrote:
An intriguing question. Here is a good simple answer.

Thanks for the facetious answer to my serious question.

Yeah he's a nob, apologies I meant to delete that post.

Quote:
John & Khawaga

Thanks for the real insight. Most of the theory is new to me. I just started picking through Marx, and I could tell that he was trying to exclaim outrage about wage labour, but I just couldn't put my finger on the fundamental problem.

No worries, you think you got it now?

yoshomon
Offline
Joined: 19-06-07
Dec 26 2007 14:55
xuan wrote:
Thanks for the real insight. Most of the theory is new to me. I just started picking through Marx, and I could tell that he was trying to exclaim outrage about wage labour, but I just couldn't put my finger on the fundamental problem.

Have you ever worked for a wage? The 'problem' becomes apparent rather quickly, without the insight of pro-revolutionary theory.

xuan
Offline
Joined: 25-12-07
Dec 27 2007 02:39
yoshomon wrote:
Have you ever worked for a wage? The 'problem' becomes apparent rather quickly, without the insight of pro-revolutionary theory.

Certainly. I suffer that great misery each day, but I also see many others who work for wages and do quite well.

Regardless, I do see the point that John made.

I'm grateful. Thanks

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Dec 27 2007 04:31

the thing that makes it unjust or oppressive is the unfreedom in it, that the worker is forced to put his or her working abilities for the use of the capitalist due to the capitalists having a monopoly on the means of production. it is the structural power of the capitalists that enable them to push the wage down to a level where they can make a profit, even tho they don't do anything, as capitalists.

but there are other situations where capitalists can gain an unearned income due to a power balance in relation to the working class. a landlord forces you to agree to a rent increase if you want the leak in the roof fixed. to get your check cashed, you go to a check-cashing joint that takes a huge bite out of it. these are forms of exploitation other than direct exploitation of a worker by the employer.

in that sense there could be exploitation even in a socierty without classes. suppose you have a society of self-employed artisans and farmers. there aren't wage laborers. but some group, maybe a guild, gets hold of some crucial choke point or essential item in the community, maybe a power plant or a grain mill or whatever. they would then be in a position to demand a larger than average share of the social product given their power advantage in the market.

so exploitation is gaining an unearned income due to some power over others in the economy, that gives an unfair advantage.