Lecture: Marx's Theory of Capitalism

Ian Shapiro - Yale

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Lecture Description

Today, Professor Shapiro continues his discussion of Enlightenment theory of Karl Marx, focusing on the foundations of his theory of capitalism. The central question is, how is wealth created under capitalism at the micro level? For Marx, Adam Smith's invisible hand is not entirely benevolent. His labor theory of value stipulates that living human labor-power is the only way to create new value, and therefore capitalists who shift toward capital-intensive production cannot actually create new value. Marx also assumes wages are at the level of subsistence, and that capitalists turn a profit by exploiting the surplus labor time of workers. Professor Shapiro also explores some corollary concepts to Marx's mode of production: the class-for-itself/class-in-itself distinction, socially necessary labor time and surplus labor time, and the extent to which workers are other-referential.

Course Description

This course explores main answers to the question "when do governments deserve our allegiance?" It starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. Practical implications of these arguments are covered through discussion of a variety of concrete problems.

from course: The Moral Foundations of Politics


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