An analysis of karl marxs theories of knowledge

A precocious schoolchild, Marx studied law in Bonn and Berlin, and then wrote a PhD thesis in Philosophy, comparing the views of Democritus and Epicurus. On completion of his doctorate in Marx hoped for an academic job, but he had already fallen in with too radical a group of thinkers and there was no real prospect. Turning to journalism, Marx rapidly became involved in political and social issues, and soon found himself having to consider communist theory. Of his many early writings, four, in particular, stand out.

An analysis of karl marxs theories of knowledge

Business Karl Marx's core economic idea revisited Is it possible to say from what we know today whether Marx's analysis of capitalism and his explanations of the economic machine are basically either correct or incorrect? There is, in fact, such an idea.

In Volume Two of "Das Kapital," Marx developed a somewhat more sophisticated analysis of the real economy than he had done in Volume One.

An analysis of karl marxs theories of knowledge

He attempted to outline how money circulated amongst the key market participants: Workers in their role as consumerscapitalists, money-owners and money-lenders, and traders wholesellers and retailers.

But the whole edifice continued to rest on the proposition that the workers were the sole producers of value and hence of "surplus value," defined as the difference between the money cost of producing something and its sales value. If that core idea is wrong, then Marx's theory as a whole is basically wrong, and so is the main political-economic prescription flowing from it: The notion that the "proletariat" should seize the means of production, and if it does so, all will be well.

More wrong than right It turns out that Marx's surplus value idea is more wrong than right.


It is right insofar as there is some truth to the notion that a capitalist necessarily pays his workers less, in total, than what he can obtain in sales revenues from the goods they make in his factory.

However, there are some fundamental problems with the idea that the difference between a factory's wage bill and its market sales receipts is made up of "surplus value" stolen from the factory's wage-earning workers. To begin with, the market value of something is not a function purely of its cost of production.

An ounce of pure gold, for example, can have the same value on the market regardless of whether it was found in the form of a nugget by a passer-by on a creek-bed at zero cost, or assembled with enormous effort in a refinery from tiny grains of gold leached from tons of crushed rock dug up in a mine by underpaid workers.

In the former case, the net profit is actually larger, but where is the exploited worker? In reality, the contribution of labor is only one contributor of value in any production supply chain.

Who was Karl Marx?

There are several other contributors. First, there is the contribution of nature. For example, fishermen do not create fish; nature does.

Second, the managers of factories, who are sometimes also their owners or part-owners, also do valuable work. A key element of the production process is its organization and management.

Third, there is the contribution of machines, which are among the most valuable components of the production process. Machines incorporate, in their designs, the accumulated, orchestrated knowledge and expertise of centuries of scientific research and technological development.

Consider a fully automated robotic factory, with no workers at all, or at most a handful of robot-maintenance technicians.

Where is the surplus value of labor? The enormous amount of cumulative value inherent in the robotic factory is primarily attributable to the work of long-dead physicists who discovered basic physical laws, as well as vast societal systems — schools, technical colleges, universities, collegial lore — for passing along that knowledge in useful forms and turning it into engineering skills.

None of this value is attributable to the factory's wage bill.Karl Marx & Practical Cognition: In his early years of writing, Karl Marx’s ideas were similar to American Pragmatism, especially his ideas about epistemology. He defines truth in a pragmatic fashion and explains cognition in .

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