A century and a half ago, Karl Marx established a theory that today is known as the backbone to modern socialism and communism. Marx viewed the early capitalism of his own day as inherently exploitive. At the core of capitalist production is what is considered surplus value, the value left over after the producer (in Marx’s case, factory owner) had paid the fixed costs of production such as raw materials, machinery, overhead and wages. The left over amount was kept as profit, a profit that Marx saw that was earned from the sweat of the labor. Derived from his idea of surplus value was that of alienation. Marx gave an economic interpretation to alienation. People were alienated from their own labor; their work was appropriated by someone else and the work itself was compulsory, not creative; the cause was capitalism, and the cure was socialism. Marx believed that modern labor is an evolution of something that began centuries ago and encompassing everything from slave states to European feudalism right on up to today’s version of commercial capitalism; which, completed or perfected the capitalist technique of worker alienation. Marx is correct in saying that capitalism exploits the working class, and that working under capitalism is in fact “alienating”.
Worker alienation became an effective tool by which the capitalist could separate themselves from the laborers of their nations. The separation, however, was more to show a capitalist’s class status rather than having to come out and say to a laborer, outright, “I’m better than you”. There were far more consequences to the inherent and evident separation of the newly classified classed under the, now prevalent, commercial capitalist economies. In realizing that the capitalist had a new tool with which they could barter or trade, they also realized they now had an effective tool to keep the cost of the labor commodity down and in effect control those of the labor community that would become trouble for the new way of doing things in this new capitalist, industrial, power creating realm. The first casualty was and is always the worker in a capitalist society, according to Marx. See, first of all, Marx saw the many workers as victims who were or are taking advantage of by the owners of the factories and other means of production to satisfy the gain of profit by the few capitalists. Marx argued that under capitalism labor seldom receives more than bare subsistence. According to Marx, the surplus remaining is appropriated by the capitalists as their profits. This was a belief that many laborers, trying to organize to obtain better wages and work conditions during early commercial capitalism, held and acted upon.
Arguing that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” (500) and that liberal governments and ideology were merely agents of the exploiting owners of property, Marx advocated the abolition of private property and predicted the demise of capitalism after a series of recurring crises. The abolition of property, and therefore of class exploitation, would make possible a situation in which individuals would contribute according to their abilities and take according to their needs. These were and are the ways that capitalist techniques of acquiring their wealth and consequently attaining more of the wealth while disallowing many of those without it to continue to go without wealth and remain in a laborers mode of life to insure that the capitalist will always have workforce at a low cost to produce the goods and services needed to maintain a capitalist standard of life.
Marx’s theory of exploitation is also correct in that the surplus value of the production leads to a large separation of income between the working class and the capitalists. Capitalists should be required to redistribute income among the workers to make income unequally distributed. The United States has the most unequally distributed income in the world, unlike Sweden where income is distributed most equally. Also, if the gap between capitalists and workers is redistributed, the quality of the work will increase instead of the constant battle over the level of wages. Marx seems to have seen clearly that the rich in America get richer while the poorer get poorer.