Capitalism is unfolding exactly as Karl Marx predicted

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Jan 31, 2008
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Karl Marx's birthday was born 200 years ago, and capitalism is unfolding exactly as he predicted — Quartz



One hundred and sixty years ago, at a time when the light bulb was not yet invented, Karl Marx predicted that robots would replace humans in the workplace.

“[O]nce adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labor passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery,” he wrote in his then-unpublished manuscript Fundamentals of Political Economy Criticism. “The workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.”

Gradually, in the century and a half since Marx wrote those words, machines have taken on more and more jobs previously done by humans. The 20th century political movements that attempted to make Karl Marx’s ideas reality may have failed but, 200 years since the philosopher’s birth on May 5, 1818, his analysis and foresights have repeatedly proven true. We are, in many ways, living in the world Marx predicted.

Marx showed that recurrent crises were not an accidental side effect of capitalism, but a necessary and inherent feature, explains Nick Nesbitt, Princeton University professor of French and Italian and editor of The Concept in Crisis: Reading Capital Today. “​He shows that the source of value in capitalism is living labor. He also shows that capitalism nonetheless tends to eliminate living labor as a necessary dimension of its development,” Nesbitt says. That contradiction means capitalism is never stable, but forever shifting in and out of crises: The system depends on human labor while simultaneously eradicating it.

And the stakes are high. Marx analyzed capitalism as a social system, rather than a purely economic one. “Humans and human relationships depend on our place within the system of capitalism itself,” says Nesbitt. “If we don’t find a place within the system as individuals and human beings then we live under exclusion.” Capitalism doesn’t just determine our source of income but how we relate to each other, our surroundings, and ourselves. To be rendered superfluous by the system is damning to social wellbeing as well as economic livelihood.


It may be tempting to dismiss Marx’s analysis given that his communist vision failed in practice. However, the politics that developed in the Soviet Union were “not part of Marx’s vision of a social structure” says Nesbitt, but “developments of Leninism and the Russian revolution.” Most of Marx’s work was focused on critiquing capitalism, and he wrote relatively little about exactly what it would take for communism to become reality, or how it would function. Marx famously popularized the slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” meaning that all would have the opportunity to reach their highest potential and to receive the needed goods, such as food and shelter in turn. But, notes Carol Gould, philosophy professor at Hunter College, City University of New York, Marx didn’t say much about what this mantra would look like in practice.

Besides, Marx thought true communism would develop only under certain conditions. “Marx predicted that for a communist revolution to survive, it would need to involve the countries with the most developed industries, and become at least as broadly international as the capitalist system it would replace,” Vanessa Wills, political philosopher at George Washington University, writes in an email. “Neither of these conditions were met in the case of the Soviet Union, which was always highly economically isolated.”

And so it would be wrong to confuse the failure of 20th century communist states with the failure of Marx’s thoughts. Two centuries later, Marx’s writing remains one of the most “penetrating” analyses of capitalism, says Nesbitt.

The thinker was not only right about the rise of automation. He also predicted globalization and the rising inequality of today, notes Gould. “He was correct that the gap between labor and capital would get worse,” she says. Marx predicted that capitalism would lead to “poverty in the midst of plenty,” a scenario that’s depressingly familiar today. “HUD [US department of housing and urban development] estimates there are roughly half a million homeless people in the United States on any given night, in a country that is estimated to have roughly 18 million empty homes in it,” says Wills.

Meanwhile, as Harvard Business Review points out, contemporary society is characterized by a sense of alienation among workers distanced from the output of their labor, and the fetishization of commodities—both predicted by Marx.

Wills believes the revolutions described by Marx could one day transpire, though not soon. “Among many necessary factors, working class people in the most economically developed nations would need to develop greater political independence from the capitalist classes in those countries,” she writes. “We would also need to see the emergence of more principled anti-imperialist politics that oppose war and racism, and promote solidarity among working people of all nations.” But there’s little indication of what would be necessary to bring about such radical political changes.

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher used the phrase “there is no alternative” to explain her commitment to the capitalist system. Thoroughly understanding capitalism, informed by Marx’s piercing analysis, allows us to envisage potential alternatives.

“If you don’t understand what capitalism itself is, then how can you hope to formulate any revisionist system and a critique of what might lie beyond it?” asks Nesbitt.

There are still plenty of contemporary political movements that continue to reference Marx, with various degrees of accuracy. The Chinese government bequeathed a huge statue of Marx to his hometown in Germany in honor of his 200th anniversary; it’s doubtful the thinker would have been as enthusiastic about the totalitarian state as it is of him. The economist and former Greek minister of finance Yanis Varoufakis recently wrote a compelling new introduction to “The Communist Manifesto,” detailing why Marx is so essential if we want to reckon with the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Meanwhile, workers across the world held aloft images of Marx on May 1, international Labor Day; his work is still the crucial reference point for those protesting the injustices of capitalism and demanding change to benefit the 99%.

Every major historical advance in technology has destroyed human jobs, with some leaving many unemployed for long periods at a time. The human workforce has responded to these shift by gradually adjusting, taking on the new jobs generated by these advances, and so capitalism has continued to function, always depending on both human labor and technology. The current crises posed by automation may not be resolved as easily as past, though. ​The situation is “very different,” says Nesbitt, and demands adequately sophisticated analysis about the nature of capitalism. “That’s what makes Das Kapital a work of theory and critique that’s not limited to the 19th century,” he adds. The capitalist system, after all, is “the world we continue to live in today.”
 
Jun 21, 2016
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this is my favourite part

It may be tempting to dismiss Marx’s analysis given that his communist vision failed in practice. However, the politics that developed in the Soviet Union were “not part of Marx’s vision of a social structure” says Nesbitt, but “developments of Leninism and the Russian revolution.”

 
Jan 31, 2008
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Also, once you start thinking for yourself you kind of have your own opinion about everything. Some things you appreciate, some things you dont.
It stops being a whole binary thing of either/or.
"You are either with us or with the terrorists"

I personally like to awaken people not to the "joys of anarchism" but to the horrors of the system that is fucking you, your mom, my mom, the planet, in the name of more and more power to the few who have it.

Just because I say fuck capitalism doesn't mean that I believe we should instead be socialists.
I don't think socialism is the answer either.
 
Jun 21, 2016
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You don't have to be a socialist or communist to respect and appreciate Marx, or even to gain knowledge from him. Shit I know diehard white Republicans from Wisconsin who served in the US Military that even agree with Socialism on paper.
Anecdotal. Irregardless, socialism has a track record of failure so long that no sane person would advocate it. It sounds good on paper, however entelechy and socialism don't mix.

Honestly, not trying to be a cunt, but maybe you should read some books that critique socialism.

Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis | Mises Institute

This ebook is free, 600 pages, good place to start.

Also, once you start thinking for yourself you kind of have your own opinion about everything. Some things you appreciate, some things you dont.
It stops being a whole binary thing of either/or.
"You are either with us or with the terrorists"

I personally like to awaken people not to the "joys of anarchism" but to the horrors of the system that is fucking you, your mom, my mom, the planet, in the name of more and more power to the few who have it.

Just because I say fuck capitalism doesn't mean that I believe we should instead be socialists.
I don't think socialism is the answer either.
Capitalism is a word that was made up by socialists. We are democratic market driven economies with a mix of free and regulated markets.

I hear you though, you want to decide your own future free from tyranny.

If one rejects laissez faire on account of mans fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.
Ludwig von Mises
 
May 7, 2013
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www.hoescantstopme.biz
#13
May 7, 2013
9,687
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www.hoescantstopme.biz
#17
irregardless
ˌɪrɪˈɡɑːdləs/Submit
adjective & adverbinformal
regardless.
"the photographer always says, irregardless of how his subjects are feeling, ‘Smile!’"

Irregardless | Definition of Irregardless by Merriam-Webster
Irregardless is a nonstandard synonym for regardless, which means “without concern as to advice, warning, or hardship,” or “heedless.” Its nonstandard status is due to the double negative construction of the prefix ir- with the suffix -less. The prefix ir- means “not,” while the suffix -less means “without,” literally translating to “not without regard.” This, of course, is the opposite of what English speakers generally intend to convey when using this term; for this reason, style guides unanimously urge against using irregardless.
 
Jun 21, 2016
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Irregardless is a nonstandard synonym for regardless, which means “without concern as to advice, warning, or hardship,” or “heedless.” Its nonstandard status is due to the double negative construction of the prefix ir- with the suffix -less. The prefix ir- means “not,” while the suffix -less means “without,” literally translating to “not without regard.” This, of course, is the opposite of what English speakers generally intend to convey when using this term; for this reason, style guides unanimously urge against using irregardless.
So you agree it's a word?

Why you a lonely moron though?
'When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.' -Socrates
 
Apr 4, 2006
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#20
Karl Marx was a fucking idiot and a total failure that was in debt his entire life. There was a reason why the theorized about socialism - because he would benefit from it.

The problems that exist today with capitalism are the result of too much government intervention such as regulations, taxes & fines mixed into our economy.. It also doesn't help that the United States does NOT subscribe to true capitalism, the United States operates on a mixed economy - in short - Crony Capitalism.. Our government picks winners and losers - why do you think there is so much corporate cash in politics? RIGHT, because what we have isn't true capitalism - if it was true capitalism then supply and demand would dictate winners and losers, but instead with have mega corporations donating millions to government in an attempt to buy favorable economic policies that benefit them, or straight up buy regulations that will regulate their competition out of business..

As an anarchocapitalist I only wish the United States adhered to a capitalist economy, however we don't - government dictates our economy, be it via regulation, taxes or the federal reserve and even commodities..

I mean sure, at a micro (not macro) level capitalism is alive an well, I mean I can sell something on craigslist or whatever and government isn't involved with that (YET).. However our government is already trying to weasel its way into private sales..

So yea, I enjoy it when Marxists point out the shortcomings of capitalism while they preach for more government intervention when in reality it's that government intervention thats making capitalism more difficult to succeed.....

Meanwhile socialism fails everywhere it's tried because socialism is based on NEEDS not wants.

Of course economics is a complex issue and fully elaborating on my dissent for socialism and the problems with capitalism would take a thesis, which is something I don't have the time or energy for at this time.