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Introduction This paper will demonstrate the relevance of Karl Marxs critique of political economy in the context of modernitys

global capitalist endemic. Marxs core concepts of alienation and his labour theory of value, with the subsequent explanation it offers for the exploitation of the worker, will be explained in an analysis of capital that demonstrates its fundamental contradictions and inherent inequalities. I will conclude by using Marxs materialist dialectic to offer a progressive alternative to capitalisms inequalities. The current crisis in free market capitalism has seen a surge in the popularity of Karl Marxs systematic critique of capitalism. Publications traditionally regarded as champions of free market fundamentalism; The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Business Insider, Time and Fortune, have all in recent times made concessions to the Marxist postulation that inequality and poverty lie at the heart of the capitalist system. Acclaimed economists and market insiders alike have rallied in support of Marxs analysis; most notably from acclaimed economist Nouriel Roubini and former chief economist of the World Bank Jospeh Stiglitz. As have the public, taking to the streets en-mass across the world under the umbrella of the Occupy Movement in an out pouring of indignation against the misery brought upon them by our politicians vulgar attempts to salvage an inequitable and doomed market system.

The Self-Destructing Paradox of Capitalism Capitalism, Marx proffers, is a cyclical system of boom and bust, whereby fervent competition in pursuit of incessant profit and capital accumulation inevitably ends in crises of over-production. Production under capitalism does not concern itself with producing for the needs of society; it seeks to produce to the maximum profit. Commodities are mass produced for sale in an anonymous and uncertain market. Thus, producers must compete to ensure their produce finds a buyer. To overcome their competitors, capitalists are compelled to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Heavy investment is made in the accumulation of the most productive and efficient capital. while costs reduced by lowering the wage bill with a direct reduction in pay, increases in the length of the working day or by the outsourcing of employment to low wage economies (Mandel 2011).

Marxs predictions have been realised. Since the first in 1845, there have been 22 cyclical crises of over production (Mandel 2011). Defenders of free market capitalism such as Eamon Butler, of the Adam Smith Foundation, insist that market mechanisms work so as any inefficiency is quickly corrected through automatic price adjustments and that any observed crisis in this mechanism is one of governance and regulation, not of an inherent flaw in capitalism itself. However, this logic becomes problematic when one considers the example of the Great Depression, where a crisis in capitalism in the 1930s was left unabated in the tradition of liberal economics, and resulted in historys longest and deepest depression. Keynsian advocates embraced state intervention in solving this crisis, but such intervention was useless in preventing further crises in 1974 and 1980 (Harman and Butler 2008)

Acclaimed economist Nouriel Roubini confirms Marxist theory in identifying why such interventions are futile in our current crisis (Mackenzie 2011, Karon 2011). Capitalisms inevitable crises result in periods of economic stagnation; there is mass unemployment and no incentive to reemploy because demand in the economy is weak as the populations marginal propensity to consume is greatly reduced. Capitalists lust for capital accumulation persists as they strive to increase profits, but this accumulation is undertaken at the expense of labour investment or by shifting this investment to low wage economies with little purchasing power. A firms labour costs are a households labour income, and it is this income with which they consume those goods and services produced by the firm. By choosing capital investment as the optimal strategy for profit accumulation, firms destroy demand for their output. For Marx, this is the self destructive paradox of Capitalism (Mandel 2011).

The Increasing Misery of the Proletariat Capitalism is not just destructive for the firm, it is a system built on the exploitation of the majority for the betterment of a few. Marx argues that workers, like everything else under capitalism, are commoditised in selling their labour power for a wage. The value of this labour power depends on the cost of producing this labour. The majority of workers are paid subsistence, and are merely capable of sustaining themselves and their children, the next generation of wage labourers. Highly skilled workers are paid more, to reflect the cost of training involved in acquiring these skills. Crucially however, labour is not simply a commodity, as it is labour alone that is capable of producing the new value that Marx calls surplus value. Thus we are presented with the root of the workers exploitation; by appropriating the surplus value created by the worker as profit, capitalists never pay workers the true value of their labour (Freedman 1962). Such extortion can persist

because the means of production lie in the hands of the bourgeoisie class of capitalists, not with the working class proletariat (Eagleton 2011).

It is work under such conditions that gives rise to one of capitalisms most distressing afflictions, alienation. Marx argues that what distinguishes humans from animals is not consciousness, but is humanities ability to produce its own subsidence. Through work, humans realise their own potential. In capitalism, this is not possible, as the produce of the worker is not for oneself, but is sold at the market (Grint 1991). Individuals enter into the wage-labour agreement out of economic necessity, and accrue no satisfaction from work itself. Modernitys automation makes many jobs mind numbingly repetitive, dull and boring. Work itself becomes a dehumanising and deskilling experience. The process of becoming a commodity for use by the capitalist is utterly alienating in itself (Eagleton 2011).

Despite its torment, work at least offers the opportunity to share the pain in a collective workforce with the potential to instigate change (Eagleton 2011). In modernity, the most brutal form of alienation occurs outside the sphere of work. Those individuals, who find themselves isolated in unemployment without an income, often feel alienated in a world where a person is measured according to their material wealth. Striving to conform in a society of excessive consumerism when consumption is impossible is a truly alienating experience, and can result in crime and drug abuse. It has been argued that the London riots of 2011, although not politically motivated or revolutionary, were a manifestation of this frustration. Those poor people who are constantly

encouraged to consume what they cannot afford found they could freely take what they have been thought to yearn for, and did so in their thousands in acts of mass looting (Kotkin 2011).

The capitalist contagion tormenting the lives of the citizens living amidst its chaos is unrelenting. As competition sees some firms arise victorious, and other become obsolete, there is a concentration and centralisation of capital in the hands of an ever smaller number of capitalists. In light of the increasing concentration of capital in the hands of an elite core of bourgeoisie capitalists, Marx predicts the demise of the class of artisan shopkeepers and small business people whom he dubbed the petty bourgeoisie (Mandel 2011). Such an assertion is increasingly relevant today. In 2000, a supposed year of prosperity for Britain, 43,365 of its small businesses went bust. Furthermore, over the last 20 years, the sales of the worlds largest multinational companies have seen a sevenfold increase whilst employment has stagnated. In 1999, at the height of the American boom, 80% of its population had not seen an increase in their standard of living over the preceding 20 years, while 20% actually became worse off. In the US today, 0.5% of its population dominate as much wealth as 90% of their compatriots (Eagleton 2011).

The Inevitability of Class Struggles Marx knew life under such conditions would prove intolerable, and that workers will universally campaign for a decrease in working hours and an increase in their real wage. To do this, they would organise themselves collectively so as to increase their aggregate bargaining power and further their interests when selling their labour. At the time of Marxs writing in the mid-nineteenth century, there were but half a million workers organised in this way across no more than a dozen

countries. By the end of his life, there existed an ever increasing number of conscious socialists forming political parties so as to abolish wage labour. Today, trade unionism is an intrinsic aspect of working life, and encompasses and engages millions of workers in a class struggle with capitalist and state employers (Mandel 2011).

An extension of this struggle beyond sectoral interests has been slow. For some time the development of what Marx (1967) calls a class consciousness amongst all wage labourers that would see them unite to bring an end to capitalism seemed increasingly unlikely. Weberian notions of a stratified society in which no uniform proletariat working class existed proved popular. Weber proffers that society is a series of layers between which exists many social locations, each layer with its own contradictory interests and concerns, thus making a revolutionary uprising of united workers impossible (Saunders 1990). However, Marx argues that capitalist competition inevitably sees the concentration of the systems wealth into an increasingly smaller number of those at the top. The middle layers of Webers stratified society will begin to sink into the lower levels of the working class as a result (Eagleton 2011).

Debt driven attempts to slow this inevitability have failed. The collapse of our banking sector has seen the lines of credit for small business and private loans run dry. Increasingly, ordinary men and woman are being forced to become revolutionaries in their opposition to attacks on their standard of living. Inspired by the pro-democracy movements of those Arab nations campaigning to rid their countries of oppressive capitalist dictatorships, the indignant Spanish youth began a trend of mass

occupation by taking over strategic cities in their country. Having become popularised by the American Occupy Wall Street movement, this campaign has gone global.

In a mass demonstration of defiance against the austerity inflicted upon them by politicians who consistently defy economic reason in attempting to save capitalism, millions of disillusioned wage labourers have been mobilised under the banner of the indignant 99%. Support for the movement has been widespread amongst academics, most notably from the Nobel Prize winning former chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, who in an address to the Spanish Indignados of Madrid echoed their calls for an end to neo-liberalist free market fundamentalism (Roos 2011). The outcome of this worldwide struggle has yet to been realised, and protestors have been met with fierce political repression. However, this movement has gone a long way to dispel Weberian assumptions of a stratified society incapable of solidarity, and has a striking resemblance to the form of class consciousness foreseen by Marx.

Conclusion Such a class of conscious socialists offer the antithesis to the thesis of capitalism in Marxs materialist dialectic. As a materialist, Marx proffers every stage of the historical development of the world to be defined by its relations to the economic mode of production. Under his dialectic, capitalism was necessary to develop the means of production and the world markets. However, when it was no longer progressive, when it reached its pinnacle of efficiency and began to collapse under its internal contradictions, a class conflict would deliver us from its inadequacies into a new era of socialism (Marx and Engels 1967).

For a system to operate whereby tyranny and exploitation are no longer necessary, where democratic freedom is guaranteed, the means of production must be removed from those who produce for profit, and taken control of by the workers, the only people capable of creating real value. It is only then that production will be based on societal need rather than monetary gain (Fine 1983). A new era of economic militancy must question the legitimacy of the bourgeoisie minoritys right to dominate our societal resources. In the realisation that capitalism is an insecure and unsustainable antagonist that undermines and destroys our essential services, the wheels of the dialectic will turn to produce a socialist synthesis (OFlynn 2011). The contemporary relevance of this progression must not only be acknowledged, but acted upon, to ensure for us a peaceful, sustainable and allocatively efficient future free from capitalist inequality, overproduction and exploitation.

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