XXV

Wages of Labour

[XXV.]
....We started out from an economic fact, the estrangement of the worker and of his production. We gave this fact conceptual form: estranged, alienated labour. We have analysed this concept, and in so doing merely analysed an economic fact.
....Let us now go on to see how the concept of estranged, alienated labour must express and present itself in reality.
If the product of labour is alien to me, and confronts me as an alien power, to whom does it then belong?
To a being other than me.
....Who is this being?
....The gods? It is true that in early times most production - e.g., temple building, etc., in Egypt, India, and Mexico - was in the service of the gods, just as the product belonged to the gods. But the gods alone were never the masters of labour. The same is true of nature. And what a paradox it would be if the more man subjugates nature through his labour and the more divine miracles are made superfluous by the miracles of industry, the more he is forced to forgo the joy or production and the enjoyment of the product out of deference to these powers.
....The alien being to whom labour and the product of labour belong, in whose service labour is performed, and for whose enjoyment the product of labour is created, can be none other than man himself.
....If the product of labour does not belong to the worker, and if it confronts him as an alien power, this is only possible because it belongs to a man other than the worker. If his activity is a torment for him, it must provide pleasure and enjoyment for someone else. Not the gods, not nature, but only man himself can be this alien power over men.
....Consider the above proposition that the relationship of man to himself becomes objective and real for him only through his relationship to other men. If, therefore, he regards the product of his labour, his objectified labour, as an alien, hostile, and powerful object which is independent of him, then his relationship to that object is such that another man -- alien, hostile, powerful, and independent of him -- is its master. If he relates to his own activity as unfree activity, then he relates to it as activity in the service, under the rule, coercion, and yoke of another man.
....Every self-estrangement of man from himself and nature is manifested in the relationship he sets up between other men and himself and nature. Thus, religious self-estrangement is necessarily manifested in the relationship between layman and priest, or, since we are dealing here with the spiritual world, between layman and mediator, etc. In the practical, real world, self-estrangement can manifest itself only in the practical, real relationship to other men. The medium through which estrangement progresses is itself a practical one. So through estranged labour man not only produces his relationship to the object and to the act of production as to alien and hostile powers; he also produces the relationship in which other men stand to his production and product, and the relationship in which he stands to these other men. Just as he creates his own production as a loss of reality, a punishment, and his own product as a loss, a product which does not belong to him, so he creates the domination of the non-producer over production and its product. Just as he estranges from himself his own activity, so he confers upon the stranger and activity which does not belong to him.
....Up to now, we have considered the relationship only from the side of the worker. Later on, we shall consider it from the side of the non-worker.
Thus, through estranged, alienated labour, the worker creates the relationship of another man, who is alien to labour and stands outside it, to that labour. The relation of the worker to labour creates the relation of the capitalist -- or whatever other word one chooses for the master of labour -- to that labour. Private property is therefore the product, result, and necessary consequence of alienated labour, of the external relation of the worker to nature and to himself.
Private property thus derives from an analysis of the concept of alienated labour--i.e., alienated man, estranged labour, estranged life, estranged man.
It is true that we took the concept of alienated labour (alienated life) from political economy as a result of the movement of private property. But it is clear from an analysis of this concept that, although private property appears as the basis and cause of alienated labour, it is in fact its consequence, just as the gods were originally not the cause but the effect of the confusion in men's minds. Later, however, this relationship becomes reciprocal.
....It is only when the development of private property reaches its ultimate point of culmination that this, its secret, re-emerges; namely, that is (a) the product of alienated labour, and (b) the means through which labour is alienated, the realisation of this alienation.
This development throws light upon a number of hitherto unresolved controversies.
....(1) Political economy starts out from labour as the real soul of production and yet gives nothing to labour and everything to private property. Proudhon has dealt with this contradiction by deciding for labour and against private property [see his 1840 pamphlet, Qu'est-ce que la propriete?]. But we have seen that this apparent contradiction is the contradiction of estranged labour with itself and that political economy has merely formulated laws of estranged labour.
It, therefore, follows for us that wages and private property are identical: for there the product, the object of labour, pays for the labour itself, wages are only a necessary consequence of the estrangement of labour; similarly, where wages are concerned, labour appears not as an end in itself but as the servant of wages. We intend to deal with this point in more detail later on: for the present we shall merely draw a few con

[XXVI.]



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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