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“Labour” and “Labour Power” Concepts Comparison Essay

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Updated: Jun 18th, 2020

Section six of the Clayton act asserts, “the labour of human beings is not a commodity, or article of commerce.” This doctrine of labour, in a capitalistic environment, is as cosmetic as it can be. Capitalism has intentionally refused to acknowledge the demarcation between “products” and “producers,” “labour” and “the labourer.” For as long as this distinction remains foggy, capitalistic markets will continuously treat workers as commodities or factors of production. Karl Marx categorically criticized the concept of “labour power” as enshrined in the political and economic rubric of a capitalistic society (Gorz, 2011).

Krugman decries the fact that capitalistic societies have “refused” to distinguish between “labour” and “labour power.” This confusion in the conceptual framework of “labour” and “labour power” is what defines one variable as a “commodity” in capitalism and a “non commodity” in a Marxism setting. While “labour” is the “effort of producing goods and services,” “labour power” entails “ability to work through mental potentiality or having the brawns to work” (Gorz, 2011).

The nexus between “labour” and “commodity” in a capitalistic economy is defined by the nature of capitalists in viewing “labour power” as an article of trade. This makes it to be under the influence of market forces. Once labour is under the market force, employees become a property of the system of production. The correlation between these two components is very visible in today’s industrial set up, where worker is viewed as a production tool owed by the system.

Market place vagaries

The morphology of a capitalistic setting reveals vicious and “insensate” tendencies as described by Krugman. Yes, it is admissible that capitalistic markets treat workers like commodities; they embody worker exploitation with very little regard for employee dignity. Treatment of workers by capitalist employers corroborates Krugman’s assertions that these markets are “cruelly capricious” (Gorz, 2011). As Marx proclaimed in his communistic ideas, the owners of production are in an unyielding control of the production process. As they seek to multiply their profit levels, the workers are pushed to the brim to maximize the efficiency of the production process. The welfare of the workers is not taken seriously as compared to the production process. They are oppressed in terms of wages, since the supply of labour in the market is sufficient, the workers are subjected to very savage work conditions as long as the production tangent is not disrupted (Skousen, 2008).

Private markets are under control of the bourgeoisie. They are in firm control of these markets since they can influence the market forces. These markets are the quintessential “capitalist employers” that professor Krugman referred to as “cruelly capricious.”

Employees as commodities: the case of Marriot

Well, the emphasis of any capitalistic market model is the maximization of the firm’s profits. This is one commercial aspect that must not be overlooked in any capitalistic society. When there is a need to push the mark up margin to larger values, the employees are the medium through which all these are attained. Neo-Keynesian economists argue that institutionalization of the labour market as an “open air” market affair has already dented the relationship between employers and employees.

Support for the human resource capital in any capitalistic market model aims to strengthen the institution of production and not the future of the personnel. The fact is that highly capitalistic economic outfits are so much engrossed in the production process that they disregard the “producers” themselves. The current global set up in the capital economy has equated “labour power” to commodities that are inherently under the influence of market forces. Marriott cannot conclusively point out that it is different from other corporate bodies, since all the tenets of its operational strategies are anchored on maximization of profits. Despite the superficial assurances, the operational template of capitalistic companies is based on profit maximization and not entirely on employee protection.


Gorz, A. (2011). The division of labour: the labour process and class-struggle in modern capitalism. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press. Web.

Skousen, M. (2008). Economic Logic. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing. Web.


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