According to Marx, human capital is related to labor power. In this view, Marx claims that workers who were capitalists sold labor powers with the aim of receiving income regarding wages and salaries. Labor power is a result of transmission of experience and value from teachers or apprentices to the students. Therefore, those who are considered to have labor power are those who have qualified regarding skills and knowledge. Labor power in this theory is related to a skilled workforce. Hence, the unskilled workforce cannot produce as much as the skilled workforce due to the disparity yielding from labor power. However, other theorists have argued that there is no relationship between labor power and the difference in income earned by workforces. Through the concept of surplus value Marx manages to bridge the gap in his theory. In relation, Marx notes that employers need to receive surplus from the operations of the workforce. This implies that workers should work to attain what is beyond necessity to maintain their labor power. He opines that despite the fact that ‘human capital’ yields benefits to workers, they are still dependent on owners of non-human wealth. The non-human wealth owners are the people who furnish the livelihoods of workers with the relevant aspects. Human beings are therefore like capital to the producers. This notion is expounded in the article “Capitalization” which relates human as capital to employers contrary to the modern perspective of “knowledge capital” which is gained by a human. Other related views argue that education isn’t a factor that leads to higher wages. Instead, increase in wages is achieved by creating a more compliant and reliable business environment for workers.
One of the main points highlighted in Marx theory of human capital is labor power. His view criticizes Adam Smith perspective by claiming that “workers can only realize a higher value of skills by working for capital under conditions of exploitation such that it is, in the end, capital and not the worker that reaps the benefit from the higher productivity of labor” (Putnam 1995, p. 69). This view has been witnessed by the current workers. Worker productivity has immensely improved in recent times, but there is little translation regarding the output that goes into labor. Instead of an increase, the output in labor has declined drastically. According to Marx, if what the workers possessed in relation to their body form was capital then most of them would have been entitled to sit and reap the benefits of their capital without doing any work. However, the theory exhibits that labor power is a product of investment in human capital. Considering other things constant, personal incomes are expected to vary with the levels of education and training that the workers undertook. Such investments are fundamental to economic growth. One of the reasons as to why there was a rapid reconstruction after the Second World War is that defeated powers had indispensable human capital. Investing in human capital, therefore, builds a good labor force which attributes to excess skills. Marx observes that such labor power is sold to capitalists. Upon selling, the labor power shifts ownership, and it belongs to the employers and not the worker.
About capacity to work, acquisition of labor is made through ‘education, study or apprenticeship, always costs real expense, which is a capital fixed. The improved dexterity of a workman may be considered in the same light as a machine or instrument of trade which facilitates and abridges labor, and which, though it costs a certain expense, repays that expense with a profit’ (Muniesa et al., 2017, p. 210). However, regarding this, there is always the question of who is obligated to cater for the creation of talents or labor. Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain whether the state, capital or institutions such as churches are expected to create talents. Human capital is ‘the stock of knowledge or a collection of traits which entails talents, abilities, experiences, habits, and social attributes which are injected in the performance of labor with the aim of producing economic values.’ These aspects are essential in the achievement of goals of nations or organizations. Therefore, human capital in the economic view entails human beings striving within the limits of their economies to capture the various social, cultural and psychological complexities as they engage either explicitly or implicitly in economic transactions. Theorists have associated education and investments in human capital. Additionally, investment in human capital has been linked to productivity growth and innovation. This relation has been acknowledged by governments hence the subsidies that are provided for education and training on job skills.
Marx argues that ‘free workers cannot sell their capital in one go'” (Coleman 1988, 109). In this case, human capital is not a liquid asset and compared to shares and land it is even more illiquid. Therefore, workers don’t trade their skills instead they contract with the aim of utilizing such skills likewise industrialist’s sell their products and not their machinery. However, slaves are an exception because, despite the fact that their human capital can be sold, they don’t earn anything for themselves. Human capital comes from considering the activities that can raise the productivity of a worker. For instance, attending full-time education is considered as one of the activities. For the workers, however, human capital investments entail direct costs and other costs that are entailed in foregone earnings. Therefore, investing in human capital is always a decision made by workers. In this case, workers compare the future based on the expected incomes in exchange for the deferred consumption and training costs which are rather expensive. Some of the theories have attempted to demarcate human capital into components called intangibles. One of these intangibles which is crucial as well is social capital (Allee 2008, p. 13). Social capital is recognized by various synonyms such as goodwill and brand value and is different from talent (Searle and Brassell 2016, p. 38). Other intangibles that complement human capital include instructional capital which entails teachings or transfer of knowledge (Bourdieu 1983, p. 183).
Another aspect of Marx theory is its relation to thing-ness. According to his view, an object can be attached a use value without being considered of value itself. The use value, in this case, is considered a metaphysical category which is required to hold, fix, as well as idealize some of the things the social discourse considers them to have particular knowable characteristics. Marx also points out that an object is not considered to be of value while at the same time having use value. In relation, a thing can be secondary instead of being primary. He opines that “this is the case whenever it’s utility to man is not mediated through labor” (Swedberg, 2005, p. 36). To a great extent, a human who is component of human capital is not designed for any gender. Ideally, it is gender-neutral to mean that it is devoid of any sexual variability. Another aspect which is illuminated in this claim is that mother’s inherent value is as well erased. Capitalists tend to erase the “usefulness of what women do to prop up a new sign that it refers back to that usefulness without acknowledging it” (Townley, Grewar, and Winter 2013, p. 112). This notion presents a human capital situation whereby women are tied to do what the society expects them to do in their family. Marx also exhibits that while human capital expects to tap benefits, women in such a case are not entitled to remuneration, and at the time they don’t even earn any acknowledgments. Understanding the women as a commodity entails understanding the two irreconcilable bodies which are “her natural body and her socially valued, exchangeable body, which is a particularly mimetic expression of masculine values” (Uzzi 1999, p. 480). Therefore, there is no doubt that some of these values influence the expression of nature which is considered as the expenditure of physical force. Analyzing value in such a manner exhibits Marx notion on the metaphysical attributes of social operations. It enlightens on the physical force which ‘serves for the fabrication, transformation, and technicalities of natural productions” (Coleman 1988, 111). According to this view, physical force is the ultimate natural property that entails the value of the product.
The human capital theory defines labor to be a form of capital whose value can be enhanced by investing. Some of the common investments include education, good health, and relevant job training. In a way, therefore, labor is considered as a commodity that can be purchased. On the other hand, the ‘human’ in human capital has the freedom to decline to sell their labor to capitalists. Therefore, how labor gets into the hands of industrial capitalist depends on the willingness of the owner who in this case is the employee. However, this view has been criticized considerably since one of the primary characteristics of labor is that it cannot be sold or be bought. What is purchased in this case is labor power. An employee doesn’t engage in a mechanical relation when they are selling the labor power. The human capital theory fails to consider the impact of market forces (Alexander 201, p. 4780). Marx, on the other hand, opines that market forces determine social relations such as education and income distribution (Grugulis and Stoyanova, p. 1330). Therefore, workforce invests in the said elements to meet the thresholds of the market.
It is evident from Marx theory that human capital entails a relationship between labor power and the market demands. The industrial capitalists influence how human enhance their labor (Muniesa et al., 2017, p. 212). Additionally, other needs such as satisfaction and necessities are some of the forces that drive human to invest in labor power. The uncertainty of the future and environmental changes also have an impact on the decisions to invest in labor power. While Marx expresses that skilled human resources are not necessarily affiliated with capitalists, it becomes difficult to ascertain what appropriates surplus value. The theory exhausts the sources of extra income that is earned by the skilled human resources as opposed to the unskilled human resources. For a long time, this has been a point of contention. Various school of thoughts has been built around this concern. Some of the perspectives which explain the source of the extra wage of skilled workforce relate to the disparity in labor. As a result, the added value which is enhanced by teachers or trainers facilitates labor power of the students or apprentices. Therefore, when such individuals sell their labor power to capitalists the value added by the teachers to labor power is transmitted to the commodities. In relation, the commodities are produced by the improved labor power. However, this view has been criticized for its inability to highlight social relationships. Some theorists have expressed their dissatisfaction with Marx perspective due to its focus on market relationships.