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Marx’s Contribution to Political Economy

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lego Marx (photo by Dunechaser).

Over at The Excerpt Mill I quote Ken C. Kawashima:

One of the abiding insights made by Marx in Capital is that in the colonies of capitalist nation-states the illusions of the capitalist law of supply and demand of labor are shattered. In the home country, the great beauty of capitalist production consists in being able to reproduce the wage worker by periodically setting him free, i.e., firing him, and producing a surplus population that stands in relative exteriority to capitalist production as the precondition for the commodification of labor power. Periodically treating labor power as a disposable commodity is thus the way capitalist production can ensure that its most indispensable commodity–labor power–is always already there when capitalist production experiences so-called labor shortages during times of industrial expansion. It is this reproductive mechanism that allows for the smug deceitfulness of the political economist, not to mention the Japanese colonial policy maker, to think, and to formalize into naturalized axioms of economic movement, that owners of labor power–who are in fact compelled to enter into a relation of dependence with the wage form–can enter into a free contract between sellers and buyers, between owners of the commodity labor power, on one side, and owners of capital, on the other. In the colonies, however, “this beautiful illusion is torn aside” because the conditions for the appearance of owners of labor power on the stage of the capitalist market do not originally exist there.

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