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AS/POLS 2900.6A
  Perspectives on Politics

February 24 – Marx on Nature, Labour, History: General Overview

We should begin this five-part but very brief investigation of Marx by first of all trying to put aside three very common misunderstandings. The first misunderstanding, still widespread today, is that there is a direct line of descent from Marx to Stalin, that to subscribe to all or many of Marx’s views is to invite authoritarian rule in a one-party state: the secret police, the Gulag, etc… That is not very much unlike the view that there is a direct line of descent from early Christianity to the Inquisition, or that followers of Nietzsche are likely to end up as Nazis. The second misunderstanding that it would be advisable not to get embroiled in is that because the Soviet experiment is over (well and truly according to many a Marxian socialist), that Marx is somehow out of date. (Or that because capitalism goes does go through periods in which general levels of prosperity are on the rise for a fair period of time, Marx’s analyses of its “contradictions” has been superceded.)

The  third misunderstanding it would be worth setting aside takes a little more time to state, but it leads us closer into what Marx is doing. This is one of the most common misunderstandings, not only of Marx, but of many forms of radicalism. And it is a misunderstanding even sometimes shared by radicalism itself. I am referring to the view that socialism would be a perfect social and economic system in which there would be no opposition or conflict, a sort of Christmas 365 days of the year: nothing but peace, goodwill towards all, and so many goodies one gets stuffed to bursting. It is usually conservatives who reserve for themselves the apparently deep, but really rather banal “wisdom” that perfection is either unattainable or reached only in heaven. It is quite legitimate for the accusation of dangerous naivety to be raised against radicals since, after all, aren’t they calling for the realization of heaven on earth?

This misunderstanding arises from, among other reasons, a failure to understand the sort of transition that Marx was trying to make from philosophy (especially from the then and since very influential variant of idealist philosophy Marx had studied under  Hegel) to something else. This something else is not science, because it is both less and more than science. Marx is not following Hobbes down that path. But Marx would probably have been very comfortable in saying it is less than philosophy.

Marx has simply had enough with the philosopher’s quest for absolute knowledge (and with its opposite, too – free-floating, abstract skepticism). “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” In saying this Marx is not denying that the beliefs formulated or deepened by philosophers do not have influence. He knows that they can, when they are ripe for it. He is saying that better than a theory that hopes to find ultimate truths far from the actual lives into which most are compelled is a theory that understands its role in action – in “praxis”, specifically the praxis of social transformation. So Marx will take great care to understand how the actual history of society can account for the development of a theory such as his own. He will, that is, understand even (even especially) his own theory as belonging to a certain time and place, as belonging to a certain set of definite possibilities and potentialities for a change to a qualitatively better way  for society to be organized. But, as a result, Marxism has no specific spiritual content. It even refuses to give you a positive picture of what life on earth can and should be like. This is so, even though it has a great deal to say about what it should not be like, and why human beings can do significantly better.

Perhaps some other radicalisms, like the utopian socialisms from which Marx also learned, have this drive so frightening to conservatives – the drive to perfection, to heaven on earth. And of course the conservatives are right to insist on the difference. Heaven is not an earthly reality and conservatives are not without reason in warning that the subordination of everything else to the realization of heaven on earth can lead to unintended and quite horrific consequences. But Marx is not calling for the realization of heaven on earth. At the origin of Marxism there is a radical criticism of religion that does not simply wish to replace it with a better way of getting to heaven. Following another student and critic of Hegel’s, Ludwig Feuerbach, Marx understands that what humanity tends to do in its religions is to project, in distorted form, its own real but not yet realized possibilities into a superhuman beyond.

Here lies part of  the basis for this third common misinterpretation of Marx.  From this discovery that the spiritual has always been misused to project real human possibilities into a world beyond, a step is taken by many critics of Marx which does not really follow: that what Marx and other radicals are saying is that heaven can be realized on this earth. What Marx does say is that a radical critique of religion is necessary as one part of  humanity’s coming to consciousness of its own real possibilities. But such a critique of religion would not approach ideas or images of heaven as meaningless, arbitrary and blind delusions, but as the exaggerated, glorified, distorted expressions of something real. One would expect the distorted expressions to disappear or at least change substantially once the possibilities were realized.

The possibilities that Marx understood, however, as the truth of religion are not possibilities of perfection. Conservatism (and most of liberalism after it has won its political battle to become dominant) affirms that otherness, pain, suffering, finitude and death are always with us. These are indisputable truths with which Marx could and does agree. But conservatism also admits into the same list of things that are always with us such items as poverty, domination, hierarchy, exploitation, brutality. When someone like Marx comes along and says that poverty, domination, hierarchy, exploitation and brutality (and so on…) can be abolished, he is taken (conveniently) to imply that otherness, suffering, frustration, conflict and death are also to be abolished. This is of course, ridiculous. It is so ridiculous, and it is at bottom so simple an error of interpretation, that it is difficult to accept how important an argument it has been and continues to be for political opponents of Marx.

A second part of the basis for this misunderstanding of Marx might be found in the fact that religious, spiritual or utopian aspirations do, and perhaps ought to, get tied up with struggles for social change. Radicalism is itself open to participation in its own misunderstanding. It may be a motivational necessity to make a connection between spiritual yearnings for salvation, for perfection, and the fight for possibilities here on earth. Yet, if anything, Marx should be praised by conservatives for unraveling just such a muddle, for trying to put socialism on a “scientific” basis. So Marx’s communism would not be a social realization of perfection, but “merely” one in which domination, exploitation, class division, the state, the alienation of labour and even gender hierarchy do not exist. People will still suffer, commit injustice, endure pain both psychological and physical, and face the knowledge of death. There will still be disagreements, conflicts and politics.

From the point of view of the idealist philosophies Marx is writing against, there is a descent in him from the spiritual to the material/economic. And Marx is most often thought of, especially in survey courses, as simply a social scientist aiming at objective knowledge of certain socio-historical “laws”, or else as a theorist of working-class emancipation, or both. But this “descent” was not a simple abandonment or absolute rejection  of the “ideals” expressed in some “pure” philosophy. One might begin to characterize it better as a sort of “translation” of the best insights and ideals of philosophy into knowledge about the real, but obstructed possibilities produced by actual, that is,  as Marx often says, active and sensual  human beings living the history they are producing (almost always unconsciously, or “behind their backs”). Marx realizes that changing the world is not the province of philosophers; nor are many of the problems of philosophy truly the problems of the world. As he does with religion, Marx thinks that the problems of philosophy should be interpreted as a refracted, distorted expression of other, more earthly problems. These problems cannot be solved by philosophers or critics. Intellectuals such as these could help clarify these earthly problems, but they can only be solved by people who are thoroughly worldly themselves, specifically for Marx, at this point in human history, by the working class. To turn to this-worldly problems meant to study what was actually going on. To grasp the irrationality (and the potential for rationality) in the actual life of humans meant specifically for Marx to come to grips with the existence,  the life and conditions of the working class and to reveal the limitations and distorted assumptions (as well as the truth content) of the most highly developed, best reasoned attempts at justifying its existence and conditions. That is, it meant producing a “critique” of the nascent social science of economics (what was then called “political economy”).

According to Marx, the latest idealist philosophy, the philosophy of his teacher Hegel, part of which he rejected, but part of which he valued very highly and partially re-worked, had made a truly important discovery, one which moved it definitively beyond all previous philosophies, such as those of Plato and Aristotle, but also of Hobbes and Locke. Hegel had managed to move beyond a “contemplative” view of consciousness and rationality. A contemplative view of consciousness sees true consciousness as a static reflection of a static and permanent reality.  In Hegel’s philosophy, however, consciousness and reason are for the first time thought of as an active and developing force, as essentially having a history.  Reason develops and learns by learning something about itself. That is, it makes qualitative advances through self-reflection. And it can do this because reason is already in and of the world. Reason begins (logically and historically) as something simple, and in a sense naïve, and through a history of making very fundamental judgements (and of painfully discovering that those judgements lead to impossible consequences), reason gradually, and also sometimes in fits and starts ( in sudden reversals), comes to perfect itself. But one big problem for Marx with this is that the Subject or agent of Hegel’s activity is Consciousness itself. In its most highly developed form, (which Hegel thinks has already been reached at his time) this Consciousness is called “Spirit”. Because for Hegel, the substance of history is Spirit’s history of self-development, Marx thinks that Hegel has produced a theory in which the history of humankind (as active, sensuous beings) does not really belong to humankind. The history of humans belongs to Spirit or Consciousness. For Marx, Hegel has produced a brilliant, earth-shaking, but still distorted idea of both reason and history, because it gets played out in such a way that the human is something like the plaything of an abstracted and hypostatized Spirit. (Remember the term “hypostatized”? It was brought up in connection with Aristotle’s critique of Plato’s theory of Forms. There is a sense in which Marx’s criticism of Hegel carries strong echoes of this move on Aristotle’s part in relation to Plato).

This is Marx’s basic philosophical objection to Hegel, which gets elaborated and extended in myriad ways, and turns out to have enormous theoretical and political consequences. According to Marx, even Hegel and certainly idealism in general, take consciousness as the determinant of being. Marx, on the other hand, will begin by reversing this idealist relation between history and thought that Hegel unfortunately carried over from earlier idealism. To correct what is wrong in Hegel will mean to “put him back on his feet”. It will mean to begin from understanding that “being determines thought”, i.e.  that a hidden intelligible and purposive order (“thought”) is not the essence and subject of world history. Consciousness is always the consciousness of a determinate and finite, natural being.

But Marx’s rejection of idealism does not make him a simple or mechanical or “metaphysical” materialist. “The chief defect”, says Marx, “of all hitherto existing materialism – that of Feuerbach included – is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively.” The prototypical example of the simple, mechanical, metaphysical materialist view, is that human beings are simply systems of matter in motion. The laws which govern human behaviour are in principle no different from the laws that govern any other material action and reaction. This view is unacceptable to Marx, because he takes over from Hegel the idea that consciousness is active and essentially capable of becoming self-transformative. The objects of human activity, including humans themselves, are to be understood as the product of a history. And history is to be understood as the product of a human subject. To understand humans in society in the same way that the natural sciences understand other material objects is still to a large extent the program of much modern social science, and even some Marxist social scientists. But not for Marx. The basic view of the natural sciences, transposed to the social sciences, leaves out the self-transformative dimension. Another consequence of this is that Marx will reject the idea of a fixed and static human nature derived from the biological or physiological structures of the human being.

For Marx, then, being a materialist does not mean  subscribing to  a metaphysical position that the ultimate or all of  reality is matter, and that all of matter is best understood  in the way that mathematical physics understands it. Moreover, the simple materialistic and the individualistic ways of looking at human being coincide. “The highest point attained by contemplative materialism [pretty much the same as metaphysical materialism], that is materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is the contemplation of single individuals in ‘civil society’.”  Simple materialism understands human society and history as the resultant of the behaviour of a collection of essentially pre-given individuals. Thus, part of what Marx carries over from Hegel’s transformation of consciousness from a contemplative/passive something to an active/self-transformative something is an understanding of the human as a historical and social being, and as a process at the center of which stands human labour. We are unable, therefore, in principle, to find a static human nature, expressing itself  in various different forms throughout history, some forms closer to nature, some forms further removed. As society changes, humans change. But this can only be because to be human means to be capable of transformation and self-transformation.

So there is a direct and crucial relation between Hegel’s conception of Spirit and Marx’s conception of labour. They both have to do with a subject that makes itself in making history, and who has in turn been subjected to the history this subject has made.  Both “Spirit” and “labour” are new conceptions of freedom – as self-transformative activity that reaches its peak in becoming fully aware of itself as what it is. But for Marx, Spirit is a “mystification” of labour. Labour, which is for Marx free, conscious activity is what mainly differentiates humans from the rest of the animal world. But productive labour is not only always planful and rational; it also always takes place only within the contexts of the human senses and within some kind of social context. Sensuousness and sociality are essential aspects of labour, as well as rational freedom from the nature in (and sometimes against) which one labours. But labour is activity that escapes from nature, which asserts a distance and therefore freedom from nature as what is merely given, predetermined and repetitive.

Although labour is, to be sure, the production of material goods, of tangible things, it is more than simply the instrument of material survival and social reproduction. Marx calls it our “life-activity”. He means by it, then, the production of the totality of our material and cultural world. As human beings we make, re-make and learn a world for ourselves, and this is an activity upon which animals are not engaged. Even the social insects make only the “world” that the world of nature has programmed them to make, world without end. Now, in this process of making our world, we make ourselves. Everything about us, what we perceive, what we value, what we love or hate, what we can taste, see and feel depends upon the kind of world our own made past allows us to make. It has taken us a very long time to recognize that we do make our world. And as long as we don’t understand just how much is of our own making, we will lead an alienated existence.

But the alienation of labour means not simply that we do not  understand that the world is of our making. It means that our product, our whole world, is a totality out of our control, as individuals and as collectivities. Alienation means that our world is taken away from us, or that it comes to operate as though we are entirely subject to it, in other words that we lose control over our life-activity. It is a way of being in which my own life-activity is not mine; and, since we are social beings, that our own life-activity is not ours. Labour, which, being our life-activity, should be our self-realization, is not self-realization but self-relinquishment, self-loss.

Labour ought to be our self-realization because it is the exertion and exercise of human capacities and faculties. Labour is the development of human potentialities, because they are truly developed only when they are expressed. They cannot be expressed without this constituting labour. Labour is thus the medium in which the human being develops. It is their life-activity, in which they make themselves what they are.  Labour is the “objectification” of human capacities. The result of the self-expression of the subject is objective. It is a material/cultural object: a tool, a house, a play, a painting, a child’s education. The essential difference between humans and other animals , for Marx, however, is that human labour need not proceed under the compulsion of direct physical need. It may be done for its own sake, it may be purposeless (Aristotle would have called it the activity of a free and self-sufficient being). It is thus essentially creative self-expression and self-development. It need not be simply a means to the achievement of an external end.

Much of Marx’s critique of capitalist market society also applies to pre-market class societies. They have certain important characteristics in common. At a certain point in the development of humanity’s relationship with nature, the tables are, as it were, turned. Man begins (without knowing that this is what is beginning) to dominate nature. In order to do this he must, first of all, effect his own separation from nature. Much of human pre-history and history would be for Marx the painful, halting and largely unconscious process in which we establish our separation from nature, our freedom from its immediate dictates. In some civilizations, a claim even to superiority over nature is eventually established. In economic terms, the most important pre-condition for this process (which might first be consciously expressed in philosophy, or through technology) is society’s ability to produce a surplus over and above what it has come to require for its day-to-day existence. At that point it is possible for class division to come into existence. Perhaps such a society will use a significant part of its surplus to erect astounding monuments, whose very existence announces the special status of human beings in the world of nature immediately below the divine: pyramids, temples, etc…

But in class society there is a separation between a few who own (or otherwise control) the means of production and those who actually do the vast bulk of the work. In a slave society, the proto-typical and extreme example of a hierarchically structured organic society, workers are to a very large extent themselves the means of production. From Marx’s point of view, this phase, which can already be called one of the alienation of labour, was a necessary phase of human development. It was necessary that humans pass through a phase of dominating nature in order to free themselves from domination by nature, or complete identification with it. And in order to dominate nature, it was necessary historically – not logically or rationally – that some men dominate others. To begin the separation from and the development of the ability to control parts of nature, for one tiny group of men to live a life partially free from domination from nature (from immediate necessity), many other men and even more (if not all) women had to be turned into work animals, into tools of production and reproduction. Aristotle’s definition of a slave, remember, makes him/her into a human instrument of production or service.

So the domination of nature also involves the domination of human nature (part of human nature in the master himself, by the master and the society of masters; virtually all of human nature in the servant, by the society of masters and, unfortunately, by the servant him/herself. As Rousseau knew, slaves may come to embrace their chains). And it is not only a domination of the servant by the master, but a domination of the body by the spirit or the mind that has been abstracted from the body (sensuous human activity) and given a separate and higher existence. The separation of mind and body and the subjugation of body by mind (without which, in the human being, there could be no “free” will) is necessary for the domination of nature by reason. Some later, 20th century Marxists therefore called this idea of reason, the “reason of domination”. In its specifically modern and bourgeois form, it is termed “instrumental rationality”. The domination of nature involves not only the use of others as a tool, but also the use of self as a tool. Even the master becomes his own tool.

Throughout the various different phases of historical alienation, the relation with nature is one of  remorseless struggle. It is a struggle to meet needs. Marx, as a thinker who will  give a qualified but strong welcome to the development of Darwinian biology, tends to see the class organization of society as itself a response to selective pressures: in its ability to guarantee a larger social surplus, it is of survival value for the group. Thus class society with its oppression and exploitation, is not the result of the moral flaws of certain sinister individuals. Moral weakness in human nature is not its root or sufficient cause. Class society is a phase of an impersonal historical process that, at least in hindsight, can be seen to have a certain direction to it. Perhaps even a certain conditional desirability. One of the ways Marxism differs from certain utopian socialisms, or religiously inspired socialisms, is that at least at the theoretical level, although not always in its propaganda, it does not lay the blame on morally corrupt individuals. It hardly recognizes specific individuals – even the “heroic” figures of history: Alexander, Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon, Hitler – as significant historical agents.

Now, the way out of alienation would not involve a simple devolution. Like Rousseau (and most of us), Marx cannot imagine going back to a situation where we are so close to nature as to relinquish any and all separation from it. The way out would also not involve attempts to persuade the master to be less harsh, or to make it easier for a few among the servants to make it into the class of masters. The master has been performing an essential historical role. The master will eventually disappear, but only when society has developed to the point where it has no need of mastery (perhaps not even self-“mastery”; not all forms of self-control are equivalent to self-mastery).

As this form of struggle with nature “succeeds” more and more, however, it also becomes, according to Marx, more and more of a better struggle of the oppressed to end the domination of nature. (“Better”, at least in the sense of less and less in need of producing new forms of domination; “better”, in becoming more and more aware of the past causes of domination and of the disappearance or non-necessity of those causes). So the struggle with nature eventually turns from a struggle to dominate nature into a struggle to end domination in the interests of a reconciliation with nature. To achieve this reconciliation with nature (external and internal) would also be, for Marx, the realization of reason and freedom. What Marx especially emphasizes as a first requirement for this possible reconciliation is what he calls in his earlier writings, the development of “man’s productive powers”, and later on calls simply the development of the “productive forces of society”. Interpreted narrowly by some “economistic” Marxists to mean only the material means of production, this term “productive forces” can also be (and has been) interpreted by others to include all human capacities: technical, scientific, intellectual, moral, sensuous, aesthetic, even communicative and political. The rise of capitalism involves for Marx an absolutely tremendous expansion of humanity’s productive forces. The old, traditional, hierarchical societies in which domination begins in earnest, are therefore an essential pre-condition of the market, as the market will be an essential pre-condition for communism.

There can thus be no direct movement from the early communism of hunter-gatherers to modern communism. The path of development through class domination is necessary, not in the sense that it is pre-determined from the beginning, but that, having begun under conditions of immediate unity with nature, one would have to traverse something like that path, if reconciliation with nature were to be achieved. It is not that every specific feature of what has actually occurred has been necessary or inevitable, but that in order to become capable of rational and free social activity, one would have to begin by separating oneself from nature and by transforming oneself , at first, into an instrument of labour.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, after events like Auschwitz, Rwanda, Hiroshima, and in the first beginnings of a global environmental crisis, it becomes possible to raise the question of whether the cost of the development of power over nature was in the first place worthwhile. In early classless societies, we suffer the burden of domination by nature. In civilized class societies, this burden has been redistributed, but we also suffer from the added burden of our collective attempt to dominate nature. And, in a way, the earlier burden of being dominated by nature may not be so heavy if you do not think of yourself as clearly separate from it. Marx sometimes talks about what I’m here calling the double burden in the period of alienation in terms of the growth in the power of the whole, or of the effects of an increasingly detailed division of labour.

Humanity has greatly expanded its power over nature at the cost of crippling the individual. Hunter-gatherers cannot do much should nature begin to frown on them. Perhaps much of their response will be to restore a harmony through ritual. Not only can they do very little to nature, they have no urge and recognize no reason to do much to nature. Nevertheless, each individual in such a society has developed fully more or less all of the capacities which are capable of being developed (within the sexual division of labour). We like to congratulate ourselves by dwelling on the supposed fact that the average citizen of today (in the “developed” nations) is better off than an ancient Pharoah. But it is only in the most distorted terms that this might be so. The poorer person of today is much poorer and powerless than people have been relative to the potential of the society as a whole. And it is this relative poverty, rather than simple hardship, that Marx sees powering the transition to communism.

It is not from fear of imminent starvation that people will bring about communism, according to Marx. If the lower classes are starving, they may certainly revolt, but they will not replace the old society with communism. They will replace it with something just as bad, revert to the same old thing, or come up with something even worse. Marx’s communism is not introduced by destitution, nor is it to be identified with material abundance. It presupposes the development of the capacity and ability to produce abundantly, but the pursuit of material abundance, or affluence, has almost nothing to do with it. Marx characterizes communism as a society in which the conditions for the development of each is identical with the conditions for the development of all. Formally this applies to early classless societies and to communist society. In neither is there systematic conflict between the individual and the general interest. In the world of the alienation of labour, however, the conditions for the development of the whole is opposed to the conditions for the development of each. In order to feed the ever-expanding engine of material reproduction (of what Marx will, in his later, more “economic” writings call “the expanded reproduction of capital”), each must suffer by being reduced to the merest fraction of what they could be, in terms of the objective potentiality of the society as a whole.

Marx is therefore repeating, in a materialist way, what idealist philosophy (Hegel) characterized as a process of self-formative education. This is, for Marx, the process in which humans make themselves something other than what they were. This is done in a painful process of continual separation from what seems to be naturally given. For idealist and conservative philosophies this process of self-transformative education  (what Marx calls “objectification”) was and always must be a condition of alienation. This alienation can only be overcome through a wisdom that, basically, has come to recognize what is as rational. But for Marx, even though objectification has in the past proceeded as alienation, the two can be separated. This self-transformative process, can at a certain point, take off and leave alienation behind. So, for Marx, self-transformation through alienation is only a temporary, potentially transitory stage in the development of the species. It belongs only to class societies. The alienation of labour is only a step towards the liberation of free conscious activity.

Marx sometimes talks about everything that precedes communism as humanity’s “prehistory”. Throughout this pre-historical phase people are certainly actively producing. But they are not producing in freedom. What they do is not experienced as their doing, is not understood as such. To labour is to produce and reproduce the material and cultural conditions that produce me. But throughout the pre-historical phase this is not done freely or consciously. What we do appears to be under the control of impersonal, natural forces, natural laws over which we have no control. In traditional hierarchical societies these were the laws of God or of nature; in the market society, it is the laws of physical and human nature and of political economy that appear to determine our activity from without. What above all characterizes communism for Marx is that the process of labour in which we produce ourselves becomes subject to what Rousseau would have recognized as a general will. We directly, purposefully produce the conditions that produce us. Labour, from something painful, onerous and constraining for all but a very few, something heretofore regarded as nothing but a means to survival and extraneous satisfactions, tends instead to become direct self-expression, self-development and creativity. This does not mean that we have perfect God-like control over it. It is enough that in principle, and in general, our labour is free conscious self-production. It is enough that it is neither dictated by mere physical need, as with the animals, or by the so-called laws of political economy. It is enough, as Marx said, that humans can create in accordance with the laws of beauty.

For Marx, coming to understand how the process of self-transformation (of potential freedom) can be freed from alienation will require understanding how alienation actually works, not only what it does to the people affected by it, but how they come, unconsciously and under duress to participate in reproducing it. This leads us directly into the theme of the alienation of labour in capitalist society, which is what we will take up next.

Study Questions:

1.What does Marx mean by “labour”? Why is it so important to his ideas about human nature and the ways it changes? What does labour have to do with freedom?

2. What does Marx mean by class society? What are the main classes in capitalist society and what defines them?

3. What does Marx mean by a mode of production? What does he mean by the terms “means” or “forces of production” and “relations of production”?

4. How does the alienation of labour take place in capitalist society?  What is needed to get it going and to keep it going?

5. Why does Marx think that the proletariat, the working class, is in a position to bring about a classless society? What would change in such a society?

6. What does Marx mean by “base” and “superstructure”?

7. What does Marx think are the crucial accomplishments of bourgeois/capitalist society? Why? Are they valued in themselves or are for establishing some sort of potential? Potential for what?

8. What does Marx want to see happen with the state? What is to take its place?

9. What does Marx mean by a “commodity”? by the terms “use-value” and “exchange-value”?

10. How does the exchangeability of labour-power lead to what Marx calls the “fetishism of commodities”?

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