Capital and Labor According to Karl Marx
Karl Marx’s comparison between capital and labor is another ideological dichotomy that is well known in the history of philosophy. In the context of Marx’s socioeconomic theory, the proletariat is in constant tension with the bourgeoisie, due to the fact that the two groups do not have equal access to economic resources, or capital. Instead, the bourgeoisie has the sole ability to gain more capital, and this is through using the work of the proletariat, or labor. Because of this tension, capitalist society continues to cohere not because of voluntary cooperation, but because of the dependent relationship between the proletariat, who only own their own ability to labor, and the bourgeoisie, who own capital, and thus can purchase labor. At the same time, without labor, capital cannot be accumulated, and without capital, labor cannot be a commodity.
According to Marx, the relationship between capital and labor in a bourgeois society inevitably leads to exploitation and alienation. In the capitalist production mode, the exchange of labor for wages supplants all previous relationships between social classes. The presence of bourgeois production in capitalism takes away the necessity for all of the cultural artifacts that previously obfuscated or ameliorated the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, such as caste systems or systems of religion. Instead, both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie are fully aware of the self-serving accumulation of profit that is at the very core of capitalist production.