How Capital Extracts Value Beyond Wage Labor
The Marxist analysis of work under capitalism has long been associated with a preoccupation with wage labor: waged workers as wage-slaves, industrial workers as the revolutionary proletariat, and factory workers as the vanguard. The labor theory of value has been widely seen as applying to the wage form of work and no other. But Marx’s own writings describe other forms of labor under capitalism, and Marxist theorists have long pushed to expand our understanding of exploitation beyond the classic waged relations of production.
Capitalists have always used more than the wage form alone to extract surplus product from workers. However, this century is particularly distinguished by its growing reliance on alternate methods of extracting surplus. It’s time for Marxists to rethink our preoccupation with the wage and develop a theory encompassing a common ground of exploitation across a wide variety of extractive relations under capitalism. A recognition of that shared exploitation may prove key if the exploited “class-in-itself” is to become a “class-for-itself,” able to unite and act in solidarity.