The Economic System In Karl Douglas's Wage Labor And Capital

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In his life narrative, Frederick Douglass describes the economic system of slavery as needing the alienation of black Americans from their own identity to continue to function, where the slaves can see their oppression but cannot reject the one thing that they know. Karl Marx in Wage Labor and Capital explains the capitalist system as requiring the alienation of the working class from themselves, others and their work to keep the system going, so that the working class remains oblivious to the system they provide for. Despite their different views on whether their respective economic systems can be perceived, Douglass in his life narrative and Marx in his essay Wage Labor and Capital similarly view their economic systems as unsustainable because…show more content…
Douglass sees the system of slavery as unsustainable because he believes that slaves will eventually find a way out of the system. He explains that once he realized that “white man’s power to enslave the black man” came from “wit,” he knew that he must learn to read, and in that he found the “pathway from slavery to freedom” (Douglass 34). Once he learned to read and write, he was not only able to realize the full extent of slavery, but he eventually found his way to freedom. He believes that in education and becoming literate lies the escape from slavery, and that education would eventually collapse the system of slavery, once the slaves began to learn to read and write as well. Marx similarly sees the system of capitalism as unsustainable, but he is less hopeful for its inevitable demise. He believes that capitalism is a race to the bottom, where the only time that the workers can improve their “material position” is when they sacrifice their “social position” instead, as the “social gulf that divides [them] from the capitalist has widened” (Marx 211). According to Marx, the working class would never be able to improve their situation without furthering the divide between the classes and putting them further under the reign of the wealthy. In his mind, the divide would eventually become so large that the working class would no longer be able to support the weight of the system, and the system would inevitably collapse in on itself. In this way, both Douglass and Marx see the unsustainable nature of their economic systems, but they differ in how they see the inevitable

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