“Wage-Labor and Capital” by Karl Marx

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Introduction and Chapter I

How did Engels change Marx’s text? Why?

How did classical political economy determine the value of commodities?

What discovery of Marx changed this?

What is the difference between labor and labor-power? How is their value different under capitalism?

Chapter 2

Look up some definitions (commodity, use value, exchange value…)

What are wages, according to Marx? Why does he call “wages” a “special name for the price of labor-power”?

What part do wages play in the production of commodities?

Why does a worker sell her/his labor to the capitalists?

What is “the active expression of the laborer’s own life?” Why does Marx say that a laborer’s life begins after work?

Explain the historical differences in the labor of slaves, serfs, and workers.

Chapter 3

Describe how competition among buyers, among sellers, and between buyers and sellers affects price. Which causes prices to rise, which to fall, and how?

Explain the cost of production.

When the price of a commodity rises, what happens to its relationship to other commodities

Why does capital migrate between sources of production?

Classical economists say the average price of a commodity is equal to the cost of production. Does Marx agree? If not, why not?

Chapter 4

Why do workers receive the least possible return for their labor

Chapter 5

How did the capitalists define capital?

Based on Chapter 5, what is Marx’s definition of the social relations of production?

According to Marx, what does capital consist of? What distinguishes capital from other sums of accumulated labor? From other sums of exchange value? What does this have to do with the social relations of production?

How are accumulated labor and living labor exchanged in order for capital to exist?

Chapter 6

Explain the following quote in context: “But it is just this noble reproductive power that the laborer surrenders to the capitalist in exchange for means of subsistence received. Consequently, he has lost it for himself.” Think in terms of means of subsistence, accumulated labor, and the production of new values.

Explain how wage labor and capital bring each other into existence.

How are the interests of the capitalist and the worker the same? How are they not the same?

What is the growth of productive capital? Give an example.

Define and explain nominal wages, real wages, and relative wages. How does inflation affect real wages? What is the relationship of relative wages to capital?

Chapter 7

How is the selling price of the commodities produced by the worker divided? (36)

Which parts of the selling price come from previously existing values? Which parts are new value, and where does this new value come from?

Describe the general law that determines the rise and fall of wages and profit in relation to each other. Please illustrate with a drawing for the flip chart. (37=8)

Marx says that “despite the fluctuations in the prices of commodities, the average price of every commodity, the proportion in which it exchanges for every other commodity, is determined by its cost of production” (38). Explain. (This is review.)

Chapter 8

How does the growth of capital affect the relations between the working class and the capitalists? How does it affect the size of the working class? How does it affect the antagonism between the interests of workers and the interests of capitalists?

As capital increases rapidly, how might real wages be affected? How are relative wages affected? How are the material and social position of workers distinct?

Describe the growth of productive capital in terms of division of labor and machinery. Provide an example.

How do capitalist’s tools for competing with other capitalists get affect other capitalists, workers, and ultimately the capitalist him/herself?

Chapter 9

Explain how division of labor under capitalism begets greater and greater divisions of labor.

How does the increasing division of labor create more difficult conditions for the capitalist himself and for workers?

Describe the effect on the working class of the increasing division of labor.

Explain what Marx means by the “industrial war of capitalists among themselves.” What is the “peculiarity” of this war? (45-6- explain contradiction)

What kinds of new employment develop under conditions of capitalist competition? Compare this with present day economic trends.

How does the competition among capitalists extend to competition among workers? Again, compare to the situation for workers today.

Why is the downfall of the middle class (or petty bourgeoisie) inevitable under the present system?

Marx writes that “capital not only lives upon labour. Like a master, at once distinguished and barbarous, it drags with it into its grave the corpses of its slave…” What does he mean?

Why and how do you think that the most highly technological societies subjugate the bourgeois classes of other less technologically advanced countries?

What are the options of the working class in a capitalist society?

This study guide was included as part of the Trotsky School 2015 Curriculum

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