Karl Marx was a German philosopher and socialist in the mid 1800s. He also became one of the most influential thinkers of all time. At some point in his life, he became progressively focused on capitalism and economic theory. In 1867, he published the first volume of his book Das Kapital, which describes how capitalism works and the problems it creates such as division of labor and exploitation. But, he did not earn enough money to feed his children, as he spent most of his time in the library. Because of the time period he was living in, there were elements that influenced his works: poverty was criminalized, industrial society was more productive than a feudal society, in capitalism labor was turned into a commodity, and people were paid less for work. In his book, he set up the idea for capitalism but also the numerous problems within.
While he wasn’t the biggest fan of a capitalist society, he saw it as the much better option compared the to feudal society they were previously living in. His ideas are believed to be responsible for some socialist revolutions. Now, a lot of people refer to him as the father of Communism and he opened the door for Canes and Milton Friedman.
Marx had opinions surrounding how one should approach capitalism and the role it should play in any society. When forming his ideas and opinions he pulled ideas from influential men in his life: Henri de Saint-Simon, Georg Hegel, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, etc.. One of his beliefs was his five tendencies of capitalism: Falling Profit and Accumulation of Capital, Increasing Concentration of Economic Power, Deepening Crisis and Depression, Industrial Reserve Army, and the Increasing Misery of the Proletariat. They all outline how capitalism at that time worked.
But, because of the way it works, he believed that there would inevitably be a revolution since the government didn’t do anything to change the current status of the economy. And, when technology was first introduced to the workforce, he wanted machines to lengthen the work day. He did not predict that they would steal peoples jobs. He believed that if a place that works in collaboration runs on wage-labor, there would always be a class struggle. This class struggle would eventually lead to workers taking over. His most well-known theory was his idea regarding materialism; that religion, morality, social structures, and more all tie back to economics. Marx believed that the real danger of capitalism was that it took advantage of their workers. Employers would exploit their laborers by paying them much less than they are actually worth and the excess becomes the capitalist’s profits.
He also believed that workers were alienated in many ways: the product, the act of producing, himself, and others. This alienation causes a division in the working life and how life should be. And eventually, workers would come together and overthrow the ruling class. He believed that the capitalist mode of production allows for the bourgeoisie to exploit the workers and that a “socialist revolution will occur in order establish a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ with the ultimate goal of public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the self-emancipation of the working class.
” (The Basics of Philosophy) He also came up with his own theory called Marxism which later became the basis for the theory and practice of communism. But, when Marx was alive, he never spoke about communism itself. Its connection to Marxism was established after his death by his followers.Technology has become more relevant in today’s society than it was a century ago. It impacts everything we do on a daily basis whether it be self driving cars or the simplified processes in factories.
Although it may seem like the economy is moving in a positive direction, the workforce has a different opinion. For the first time since the industrial revolution, less than 10% of American workers are employed in manufacturing and continues to fall each year. Since robots don’t have to be paid hourly and are not at risk of injury, companies have invested in replacing their employees with machines.
And, to remain competitive and have the greatest profit, companies want to minimize labor costs which means ridding factories of more people. Today, it is much easier to automate manufacturing than services, by replacing men with machines. Because of faster productivity growth than in services, manufacturing needs fewer workers. In general, the jobs that require less education are at higher potential risk of being replaced by automated machines. Robots are not only taking over factory jobs but routine work like bookkeeping or operating basic machinery.
In the future, hospitality, food service, transportation, storage are the next targets for automation. But, it is believed that truck driving probably will be the first form of driving in the U.S. to be fully automated. Overall, machines are no longer merely stealing jobs, they are rapidly encroaching on work that today is capable of being done by only humans and replicating majority of our skills.
If Karl Marx were alive today to witness the current state of employment, he would be astonished at how not only did machines lengthen the work day, but they stole people jobs too. Marx believed that laborers across industries have common interests against the ruling class, but that the competing interests of their industries obscure their similarities. He would argue for the further division of labor since the turn of the century has allowed the ruling class to gain control of the wealth earned by dissuading the working class from organizing. “This unemployment is qualitatively different to anything we have seen since 1945. This is not ‘cyclical’ unemployment which rises and falls with the normal trade cycle of capitalism. It is not even the ‘reserve army of unemployed’ which, as Marx explains, is a necessary feature of capitalism.” (The Relevance of Marxism Today) The system is no longer able to absorb the large numbers of workers who enter the labor market each year and the introduction of machinery leads to greater exploitation and an increase in the working day.
While minimum wage has risen since that time, workers are still being exploited every day. Even though technology has advanced since the 1800s making the process of production easier, his ideas to secure employment failed and people today continue to be put out of work as they are replaced with robots.