How interchangeable is Karl Marx's work

The reduction of people to their labor. Comments on neoliberal capacity fascism *. - Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Jantzen

The “Politeknik” suggested topics for this issue: “The human being as labor, labor as overproduct, the overproduct“ labor ”as waste?” Nobody, however, determined what labor is better than Karl Marx.

He writes on the subject of work and manpower, among other things:

“Work is first of all a process between man and nature, a process in which man mediates, regulates and controls his metabolism with nature through his own deeds. He confronts the natural substance itself as a natural power. He sets in motion the natural forces belonging to his body, arms and legs, head and hand, in order to appropriate the natural substance in a form that can be used for his own life. By acting on nature outside of him through this movement and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops the dormant potencies in it and subjects the play of its powers to his own subordination. " (MEW 23, 193)

But living work is part of a social totality within which it takes place or is excluded. Because in order to be able to live, it must necessarily exchange human work with social or socially mediated nature. This counteracts living work primarily in the form of goods. But what makes the commodity a commodity and which commodity does the worker have to offer? And how is this exchange regulated in capitalist society where the separation of property from work appears as a necessary law?

It is regulated by the value of the commodity, i.e. a socially sensual / supersensible thing (ibid. 85) that only appears in the commodity form. But what is this value, which is to be strictly distinguished as a form of value from the natural form of the commodity, that is, its use value? So what is labor power as a commodity, the only commodity that the worker has at his disposal?

“Through the mere quantitative addition of labor, new value is added” […] “Value, apart from its symbolic representation in the stamp, only exists in a use value, a thing. (Man himself, viewed as the mere existence of labor, is an object of nature, a thing, albeit a living, self-conscious thing, and work itself is the material expression of that force.) If use-value is therefore lost, value is also lost. "(Ibid. 216 f.)

At the time when Marx developed his theory of value, however, force is the physical expression for energy (Toulmin 1993, 218f .; Jantzen 2013). The consideration of the human being as "mere existence of labor power" is its consideration as potential energy. This is bought as cheaply as possible for wages in order to transform the means and objects in the private property of the capitalist into a commodity form in the labor process as kinetic energy in such a way that this makes a profit. Through the use of the worker's kinetic energy (labor), marketable labor products are created whose sale as commodities (renewed transformation of potential into kinetic energy) is then available to the capitalist in the form of money (potential energy) for the next cycle.

But what if people's labor is only “labor of inferior quality”, is not sufficiently developed at the current level of the productive forces or does not appear to be developable? As labor, abstract, value-creating work is always tied to the existence of concrete, use-value-creating work. If this cannot be realized or relocated to low-wage countries, the subsistence of living labor is only supported insofar as it requires the maintenance of rule under the respective social conditions.

To transform these conditions in such a way that profits increase (Tax relief for the rich) that the lower government revenue by privatization be refinanced by health, education, social issues, i.e. through Welfare cutswhich at the same time opens up new profits for investors, that is the project of neoliberalism, the Mont Pèlerin Society, i.e. the economy of the Chicago boys committed to Hayek and Friedman. In connection with the torture methods of the CIA developed by American psychiatrists, this process clearly shows a fourth element of neoliberalism - Destroy solidarity. Examples of this are the interventions in Latin American states that were looking for their own path to social justice. This is shown most clearly by the Argentine example of quebrados, the broken politically active workers, tortured to betray their friends and comrades (Klein 2007).

It is precisely this neoliberalism that can also be seen in the Hartz IV laws and the economization of the social under the Schröder government and again in the neo-fascist approaches not only of the AfD (which the Hayek Society has meanwhile taken over by the majority), but also in parts the CSU, in the refugee and domestic policy of the governing coalition, but of course also in the FDP, which is committed to the Chicago Boys.

However, this process of exploitation as the “first human right of capital” (Marx, op. Cit. 309) has its natural limits in the existence of living labor as well as nature. In order to remain largely invisible, it also requires a transformation into meaningful, people-calling processes, for which religions are paramount, but in the same way, of course, populist forces of all kinds as well as the invocation processes of the electronic revolution through Facebook, Twitter, etc.

If we follow the French philosophers Deleuze and Foucault, the social control and disciplinary processes shift as governmentality into our own self. Relocated there, this self is often taken as the standard for all others. The neoliberal ideology of de-solidarization is spreading.

But at the same time there is another side that opposes the rulers and this policy with an absolute and decisive no. The Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel summed this up best.

“The other is the only holy being that deserves unlimited respect.” But in order to “hear the voice of the other, it is first and foremost necessary to be atheistic towards the system.” (Dussel 1989, 75) “The divinity of Negating capital [...] is the condition for affirming a non-deistic absolute. "(Ibid. P. 115)

Accordingly, a philosophy of liberation aims just as much to bring out the voice of the other as it does to democratic transformation. "We have to all political systems, Actions and institutions as not sustainable criticize and reject, from the negative effects of which victims suffer as the oppressed and the excluded! ”(Dussel 2013, 107) Corresponding ways of liberation are sufficiently discussed in the political theory of the South, even if they are generally hushed up in the North (cf. Jantzen 2015).

* FOOTNOTE: The term “capacity fascism” as the German verbalization of the term “Ableism” (racist devaluation of disabled people)
I owe my colleague Simone Danz. [S. 286 in: “Human Dignity - Human Right - Ableism”. In: Disabled Education 56, (2017) 3, 283 - 292].
Many thanks, Simone, for this very successful translation!


Aguiló Bonet, A.J. (2013): The Dignity of Garbage - Globalization and Emancipation in the Social and Political Theory of Boaventura de Sousa Santos. Berlin

Dussel, E. (1989): Philosophy of Liberation. Berlin

Dussel, E. (2013): 20 theses on politics. Muenster

Jantzen, W. (2013): Marxism as a method of thinking. Methode.pdf

Jantzen, W. (2015): Inclusion and Coloniality. In: Jahrbuch für Pädagogik, 241-254

Klein, N. (2007): The Shock Strategy. Frankfurt / M.

Marx, K. (1970): Capital. Vol. 1. MEW Vol. 23 Berlin

Toulmin, S. (1983): Critique of Collective Reason. Frankfurt / M.