Marx's Theory of Class and Exploitation 
Marx's Theory of Class and Exploitation
by Yale / Ivan Szelenyi
Video Lecture 13 of 25
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Date Added: June 30, 2011

Lecture Description

In order to move from a theory of alienation to a theory of exploitation, Marx develops a concept of class and of the capitalist mode of production. He developed these in The Communist Manifesto, the Grundrisse and Das Kapital. Marx argues that what sets the capitalist mode of production apart from the commodity mode of production is not only the accumulation of money; the capitalist mode of production is characterized by the use of labor power as a commodity to create more value. The capitalist compensates the laborer enough for his labor power to reproduce the commodity (the labor power), but the laborers' power produces additional value: a surplus value for the owner. The worker is exploited when he does not keep or control the value created by his own labor power. Marx argues that the capitalist system forces people into one of two classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This class dichotomy did not describe accurately social structure in Marx time, when a sizable class of self-employed existed. Marx predicted that this "middle class" will disappear; instead it grew in size over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Reading assignment:
- Marx, Collected Works, "The Manifesto of the Communist Party," Vol. 6. pp. 477-506
- Marx, Capital, Vol. 1. pp. 163-221
- Marx, Capital, Vol. 3. Chapter 52

Course Index

Course Description

This course provides an overview of major works of social thought from the beginning of the modern era through the 1920s. Attention is paid to social and intellectual contexts, conceptual frameworks and methods, and contributions to contemporary social analysis. Writers include Hobbes, Locke, Rou... (read more)

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