I am reading an eight page piece called "Labor Alienation" by Karl Marx for my Literature class. Here's a link to it if you would like to read it:


In it there is a line that says:

Political economy does not disclose the reason for the division between capital and labor, between capital and land.

My background in economics is quite basic, so I apologize for this very basic question. But whatever help I can get will be greatly appreciated!


2 Answers 2


Two main changes happened when capitalism came into existence these being the ability to buy and sell property among the peasantry.

Under the feudal system each household was endowed land which was used to produce food/ agricultural products for the household and the lord which provided the land.

When feudalism was abolished the possibilities of production outside the land allotted to the former peasantry was an option. However the nature of the work changed in the sense that workers were still productive but did not own their means of production in the same way that they did under the feudal system. they worked with the machines and materials provided by their employer but did not take the product back, but rather settled for a working wage which is systematically less than his own work. This is exactly the split between land and labor Marx is talking about- the inability of the worker to have access to the true product of labor (or value of it).

The land provided by the lord was a place where the peasants lived so they were always one with their means of production and benefited from it. In the new capitalist system this was no longer possible.

  • $\begingroup$ So If I understand correctly, what you are saying is that we should read "division" as "separation/alienation"? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 17:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlecosPapadopoulos in this context yes. $\endgroup$
    – EconJohn
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 2:51

Here Marx (if it is indeed him; I couldn't find a link independent from yavanika.org) is criticising what he calls "political economy", ie, the thought current that sought to explain scientifically the internal workings of capitalist economies - Smith, Ricardo, Sismondi, Malthus, etc.

And his criticism is that "political economy" takes the division between capital and labour (or capital, labour, and land) as granted, as if it was a fact of nature, and not a historical construct, by no means implied in the "nature of things".


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