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Marx's InfernoThe Political Theory of Capital$
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William Clare Roberts

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691180816

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691180816.001.0001

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Dis: Capitalist Exploitation as Force Contrary to Nature

Dis: Capitalist Exploitation as Force Contrary to Nature

(p.104) Chapter 4 Dis: Capitalist Exploitation as Force Contrary to Nature
Marx's Inferno

William Clare Roberts

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines parts two and three of Capital, where Karl Marx claims to reveal “the secret of modern society,” the capitalist exploitation of labor power, and which corresponds to Dante's circles of force. Marx's critique of capitalist exploitation takes aim at “cleanly generated” capitalism. It is what capital does with and to labor power, rather than any distributional causes or effects, that constitutes exploitation. Capital bends labor power to an alien and unnatural end, using it to generate a surplus excessive of the aims and needs of the laborers. The monstrous productivity of capital—in particular, the overwork it enforces—is inherent in this mode of exploitation. The chapter first considers the views of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Saint-Simonians regarding exploitation before discussing the novelty of what Marx does with exploitation in Capital, drawing attention to his arguments on surplus labor.

Keywords:   capitalism, Capital, Karl Marx, capitalist exploitation, labor power, force, overwork, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Saint-Simonians, surplus labor

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