Marx – Alienation and Social Classes (From The Economic and Philosophic manuscripts 1844) Labor is a commodity.

The worker who sells it becomes increasingly alienated from the products of their work, since he has put his life into the production of these objects, which are taken away from him. The more the worker produces, the more he is alienated from the products of his labor. Under these conditions, labor itself becomes “active alienation.” When labor is a commodity, man’s labor is forced and only a means to satisfying other ends – something external to his nature. The laborer begins to feel at home only when giving voice to his animal functions, such as drink, sex and food. There is a third aspect to alienation as well. Man is a part of nature; he requires a constant psychic and material interchange with it in order to survive. When this is the case, man is life among life creating life through his labor; he expresses his species-being and productive life is properly conducted as species-life. But commodified labor abstracts man from nature by individualizing him. Species Being: Man is a species-being by virtue of the fact that he can take his own activity, and the community of active agents, as a conscious object. As a result, he can produce not just in accord with his own animal activity, or the activity of other animals, but in accordance with the whole of nature (this is why man knows what beauty is). Commodified labor takes that away from man by constantly taking the objects of his labor away from him; everything he has poured his species being into gets taken away. Fourth and finally, man is alienated from other men. Man always confronts other men when he confronts himself – [unclear what Marx means by this; I guess he means that you have no choice but to see yourself as a token of a type, however much of an individual you think you are] – and thus becomes alienated from the products of their labor. So what is the necessary result of this process of alienation, other than more alienation? Marx’s answer is: private property. Someone else owns my labor, and enjoys the fruits of it. As Marx spells out in an extract from The Holy Family, the capitalist (the lord of labor) doesn’t feel a bit of sympathy for the proletariat (the alienated laborer) – far from it, he takes the laborer’s alienation as a sign of his power.

Marx – Ideology and Class (from The German Ideology – 1845)

The ruling class produces the dominant ideas in a given society. In an aristocracy honor is the most important; in a society dominated by the bourgeoisie, freedom and equality are more important. This is because the dominant classes have at their disposal not just the means of material production, but also “mental production” – they have thinkers who “perfect the illusion” of the class about itself and other classes. Under conditions of revolution, the rising class must represent its interests as that of the whole society (universal) set against the interests of a single class. This process will continue until classes themselves cease to exist.

Marx – Classes in Capitalism and Pre-Capitalism (From The Communist Manifesto – 1848) Not here because Jan already has a summary of it up in Theory (From The Poverty of Philosophy – 1847) Workers unite into combinations at first in order to defend their wages. However, as the capitalists also unite against the proletariat, the combinations become important over and above the defense of wages. The combinations will begin to represent the class itself, but not for the sake of replacing one ruling class with another. The proletariat rather understand that the current productive powers of capitalism and the existing social relations can no longer coexist. Class struggle has to stop entirely. (From The 18th Braumaire - 1852) This is the “Sack of potatoes” passage. The French small-holding peasants are a class that is not a class: they have material conditions that separate their interests from all other groups, but at the same time because of their common poverty and the poor communication between them, they cannot organize themselves or represent themselves. They must be represented – thus Louis Napoleon. (From Das Kapital Vol III - 1894; posthumous) A fragment. Marx identifies the three great classes of modern capitalism by revenues and sources of revenue: wage-laborers (wages: labor), capitalists (profit : capital) and land-owners (ground-rent: landed property). But this approach does not necessarily say what constitutes a class, since then you could begin dividing everyone up by their sources of revenue (doctors and officials might then constitute separate classes). Importantly, he admits that these three classes often have messy boundaries, and intermediary groups.

Marx – Value and Surplus Value A commodity has value because it is produced by labor under the division of labor – i.e. by social labor. The amount of value that a commodity has is a function of labortime required to produce it. It is ‘crystallized’ labor. The value of the labor itself is determined by the amount of labor necessary to produce and reproduce it (to get food and children to replenish both the body of the laborer in his own life and after his body is irreparably worn out). The capitalist makes a profit by getting the laborer to work for, say 12 hours a day but only paying him for six, the minimum required to reproduce the value of the labor power. This is surplus value.