My 2005 Critique of Capitalism and Collegiate Sports: Philosophy 340


Good day, this is a paper that I wrote in college, critiquing capitalism and Karl Marx, using my scholarship as an example of capitalism. I am planning for a part 2 to this, ‘Capitalism and the NFL’ but I had to start somewhere. I’ve retyped the paper with minimal corrections. I got a B+ but felt I should’ve gotten an A. Enjoy.



Marx believes that capitalism is wrong and that it leads to alienation from self , which ultimately leads to alienation from others and humanity. He is not primarily concerned with the aspect of earning money. Hey says that “equitable distribution of the money isn’t the solution…an increase in wages in nothing but better payment for the slave” (epm). Marx Problem is with the structure of power and economics in society. Because under the capitalist system, it has little concern for the individual as the individual is a commodity. Marx argues that through this system, individuals are alienated from themselves and the rest of humanity. The two main ways that workers are alienated in the system are: from the product and from his own productivity.

Marx says in his opening that the distinction between capitalist and landlord, agricultural labor and industrial worker, must disappear as the whole society is divided in two classes of property owners and propertyless workers. The property owners are also known as the capitalist, and his motivation is gaining profit. He gains this through workers or laborers. The laborer or the propertyless worker is an individual who needs to use work as a means to his existence, so he trades his labor as a commodity because in those days, that was the only way to survive. Marx says that “his work in not voluntary but imposed, forced labor…It is not the satisfaction of a need, but only a means for satisfying other needs”(231). In a sense the worker needs to make money to be able to live, and the labor lord needs the worker to produce the means to his profit. There must be another side because that only seems like free exchange, both sides have an end in mind and need the other as a means of getting it.

Marx feels that the problem comes from the capitalist because of the way he seeks to  attain those ends, and this is the first site of alienation. The product that is being created, is private property; it does not belong to the worker but instead to the provider of the work and is used to create profit. Marx says that

“It is true that the laborer produces rich wonderful-things but the worker it produces privation. It produced palaces-but for the worker deformity. It replaces labor by machines-but some of the workers to throws back to a barbarous type of labor, and other workers into machines.”(230)

This is his explanation of how the worker becomes alienated from the product. The worker creates this product that gains profit and achieves a higher status for the labor lord, where as the worker gets nothing.  While the profits are rising, the workers income stays the same. Through this process the worker spends the majority of his time in this produce and Marx says “The worker puts his life into the object, and then his life no longer belongs to him but to the object”229. The laborer produces a commodity and in this the laborer and the product are commodities and this is how the capitalism system alienates the worker from heir productive activity.

The worker has been dehumanized to being a tool. He is just as replaceable as the tool that he is using. The capitalist has no sympathy  for the worker. He in only concerned with product or the end result. The worker has no value in the system. No individual is greater than the plan of the capitalist. An example of this would be the assembly line. There is a guy named John, who wants to quit. He puts the tires on the cars all day long. He poses no threat to the capitalist if he quits because he will be replaced with someone else, just as we replace tools that don’t work.

The capitalist is driven by the greed for profits and the laws of economy simply encourages him to create more profit. Marx describes the capitalist as having “a vampire thirst for the living blood of labor”(Ci367). Although it may seem harsh, I don’t have a problem with the image of capitalism that Marx words create and this is where I disagree with Marx. I interpret the behavior of the capitalist as using the willing or unwilling workers as a means to an ends. Because he doesn’t force workers to work he only provides the mere means to his ends, through employment. The capitalist has desires that he chases as do all humans. Yet he is at fault in Marx eyes for the way that he uses workers to create his profit. He the capitalist has an idea and has access to workers to complete it. Marx would say that it is not wrong to have workers, but to have them continue to create profit for the capitalist and not receive a portion of the profit their product creates is wrong. I feel that today, the idea would seem harsh, but in those days those were probably what had to be created to develop the success of the capitalist.

Marx feels that the capitalist is at fault. However, I feel that the worker has a bigger part in the system and he is allowing the capitalist to take advantage of him through his needs. Marx does say and I agree, that the worker becomes a slave. But what he says is the worker becomes a slave to the object. But first he receives work, and secondly he receives means of sustenance . The worker has to survive and in order to survive you have to work. So if the worker has to survive and the only chance he has, is to work under the mandated conditions in which the provider of the ends for his survival dictates, then he is forced by needs of survival to endure. This seems to me as an agreement, within the hopes that the capitalist can provide what the worker is working for.

For me, I feel that I am in a sense in a modern day capitalist society, participating in college sports. This is the scenario. I the worker, want to play football, and make money, the coach wants to win and have the best players possible. The coach sees that he can reach his goals by attaining others and myself, which attempting to aid in our achieving our goals.

This works two ways. The coaches are dependent on the players to produce with their talent, yet they control us by giving us the chance to attend school and work gradually towards our goal. We work numerous hours and endure pain through the success plan of the coach. But, we need the coach more than he needs us, because he can easily go out and find another player, because we the players are commodities. This is the same in the workplace. Except the workers want to generate  money so they can live which would be the players and the capitalist which are the coaches have the means to create our ends if we agree to make the agreement for our existence .  Yet Marx felt that the workers weren’t given a choice in those days and they were forced to work under those conditions, as that was the only way to live.  Marx is somewhat correct in this view, but I still have to support the capitalist. Because the worker would do the same things as the capitalist if he were in the same situation, according to Rawls this is the ugly side of justice. If a problem doesn’t affect you then you are not concerned with it, it’s until the problem involves you, where you show signs of concern.

Marx says that the work alienates the worker from humanity. He says “that first the work is external to the worker…and consequently he does not fulfill himself in his work but denies himself, has a feeling of misery rather than well-being…he feels exhausted and mentally debased” (231). That’s how you feel in a capitalistic society.

For example, when I play football that’f the feeling I get, but I chose to play football. This is my main argument, I had a choice not to play and not be a part of this capitalistic system, yet I did. As a worker, I have goals and aspirations that I want to meet such as an NFL career and a college degree. The coaches or the capitals have the means to to create my ends.  They pay for my schooling and they give me instruction to better my resume. So I give them my labor in exchange for their means to my ends. The other side is that the coaches want to win and they need players for the ends to their means. This however is how the player willingly becomes a commodity. The coaches can replace me if I quit, with another person just as the capitalist in the workplace. Since there is an equal exchange of means to the ends the system is not bad.

In the workplace the worker has to make money which is his ends to survival, and the capitalist offers the means of doing so. So, the worker chooses to work and thus chooses to accept the rules of the system. And this is where Marx and I disagree. He feels that the worker is not given a choice and is forced to work. I believe that the worker has a choice, it would just make like tougher  than working for the capitalist. Marx is correct in how the workers are alienated. The worker is willingly choosing to be a commodity and the capitalist just provides him a way to attain his ends. And alienation is part of the cost that they pay to satisfy their ends, and if they reach their goal, which is money as a means of survival for the workers or collegiate sport as  a means to a professional career than, the capitalistic system is harsh but reality.

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