Alienation and Exploitation in Today’s Society
Even now, in 2012, Karl Marx’s concepts of Alienation and Exploitation
still exist. To prove this assumption I will analyze McDonalds and Wal-Mart the two biggest employers in today’s society. TogetherMcDonalds and Wal-Mart employ approximately three million people. According to the New York Times McDonald’s net income is 1.51 billion dollars and Wal-Mart, according to their 2011 annual report, sold 418,952 million dollars in products and increased their profit margin by 4.7%. When comparing Karl Marx’s concepts of Alienation and Exploitation to the two biggest employers in the world today this blog will conclude that in order for McDonalds and Wal-Mart to be able to generate such enormous sales and profits they alienate and exploit their employee’s.
Karl Marx economist and activist of the eighteen hundreds concluded that capitalism is fundamentally flawed because in order for the bourgeoisie, the
owning class, to thrive they must exploit and alienate the proletarian, the working class. Marx defines exploitation as the extraction of surplus value. Surplus value is the difference between the values of what a worker receives in wages and the value of the item produced. This means the owning party receives more compensation than they in turn compensate their employees. This is not a fair exchange between the bourgeoisie and the proletarian. The proletarian are being compensated far less than what their labor is worth, hence, the proletarian are being exploited. In addition to exploitation the employees are also being alienated. Alienation is when one is separated from something of importance to them and, due to this separation, one feels outside of or foreign to an experience. Furthermore, according to Marx, laborers are alienated in four ways. They are alienated from their work, from their product, from others, and from there specious being.
Next, let us examine the concepts of exploitation and alienation in
comparison with McDonalds and Wal-Mart. The research seems to indicate that both McDonalds and Wal-Mart exploit their employees. How could they not?
These companies make millions of dollars while the average employee at
these two companies makes minimum wage. This statistic alone shows that there is an unfair trade agreement between the employees of McDonalds
and Wal-Mart and the owners of these two companies, who equate in modern times to the board oftrustees of McDonalds and Wal-Mart. If the two largest employers are generating millions of dollars in profit and paying their workers minimum wage this, by the Marxist definition, constitutes exploitation.
In addition to exploitation Wal-Mart and McDonalds alienate
their employees. The first form of alienation is fairly simply by Marxist standards.
The employees are alienated from their products. Wal-Mart employees can’t take home what they sell and McDonald’s employees cannot take home the food they make without paying for it. In addition, the employees are alienated from their time.
When they start work their time is no longer their own but now belongs to their employers, hence, the employees are being separated from their time. Furthermore, McDonalds and Wal-Mart alienate their employees from each other.
They generate competition to increase production. This competition causes
the workers to see each other in a threatening manner creating undue stress and
alienation. For example, Wal-Mart sponsors an internship program in which one or two employees will be sent by Wal-Mart to a University, educated and guaranteed upward mobility. The most productive worker will receive the internship, but this tacticcreates fierce competition in the workplace which separates the worker from hisco-worker causing alienation.
In order for McDonalds and Wal-Mart to accrue such vast wealth they must
exploit and alienate their employees. A raw material is bought, in the case of McDonalds, ground beef, bread, everything needed to make a cheeseburger.
Then it is manufactured and sold for three times the cost of the materials to make it. In this chain of buying raw material, manufacturing it, and then reselling it the most effective way to profit is to exploit the manufacturing process by paying you employees a great deal less than you charge for your product. This, in turn creates a surplus in value. Alienation, in addition to exploitation, is another way in which these companies make greater profits. By spurring worker
against worker they increase production without increasing overhead and,
therefore, increase profit. This is how Wal-Mart and McDonalds, the two largest
employer’s in the world, generate revenue and make millions of dollars while the
vast majority of their employees make minimum wage.