Nashville Great Books Discussion Group

A reader's group devoted to the discussion of meaningful books.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BIBLE: Genesis 12 (The Call of Abraham)

Genesis 1 shows God busy at work creating the heavens and the earth. God works for six days and then rests. Work is a divine activity. When we work we are imitating God. But Genesis 3 shows work as a curse. Work is a punishment because we disobeyed God’s command in the Garden. Which view is right? The problem is not in the work itself but in the way we perceive the work we do. In other words, what is the meaning of our work? What is its purpose? On one hand we can view it from a socio-economic analysis. This is what Marx did in Alienated Labor. But we can also view work as part of the human condition. This is what Chekhov did in Rothschild’s Fiddle and Conrad in Heart of Darkness. The fates of Jacob and Kurtz revolved around their relationship to work. Jacob stayed home and died poor and unhappy; Kurtz travelled far from home and died rich and unhappy. They both died unhappily because neither man was ever really at home with his work. They were busy doing one thing but they both dreamed about doing something else. The story of Abram is the story of a man whose work and destiny are one. Abram was never busy doing one thing while dreaming about doing something else. Abram was a man with one mission. In Genesis 12 we read that the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. The Lord had something special in mind for Abram. The Lord never tells Abram why his own land of Haran won’t do but he specifically warns Abram to get far away from his own kinfolk and his own father’s house. We never know the reason why it’s necessary for Abram to give up everything to follow this God from the desert. But in return God promises to turn not only Abram but his whole family into something special: I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. We also never know if Abram struggled with his decision. The text just says So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. Abram was not a young man when he set out to rebuild his life in some unknown land at some unknown time in the future. He just “departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him.” How did Abram know it was God asking him to leave his homeland in Haran? The text doesn’t say. Why did God pick Abram? It doesn’t say that either. But Abram must have been the right man for the job. Despite some serious setbacks he was able to accomplish the mission God set for him. Kurtz had some serious setbacks in Heart of Darkness too. So why was Abram successful and Kurtz wasn’t? For one thing Abram had a clearly-defined goal, to establish a new nation for his descendants: And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land. Abram had great plans because he was building on a foundation promised by the Lord. Kurtz had great plans too. But they were based on mercantile interests and soon melted into “the heart of darkness.” Abram and Kurtz were remarkable men. Even Kurtz’s enemies admitted that he was an extraordinary man. He brought home more ivory than all the rest of the traders put together. Abram was also a remarkable man. His journeys would carry him through the famine of the desert into the heart of luxury in Egypt. But throughout them all Abram kept his focus on his real work: forming a new nation. Did he die a happy man? That’s not the right question to ask. Abram had fulfilled his function, he achieved his goal. According to Aristotle this is as close as human beings come to attaining “happiness.” In another Great Books reading (Ecclesiastes) the Preacher says: I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? Abram did his work and did it well; one of the few people to ever know “what shall be after him.” It was a new people, a new nation.

Friday, February 24, 2012

BIBLE: Genesis 11 (The Tower of Babel)

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. For many years Latin was a fairly common language understood by most of the educated classes in Western civilization. But those days are long gone. Modern advances in communication technology now opens up an interesting prospect: would it be a good thing if everyone in the world did, in fact, speak one language? If so, which language will we speak? Here’s where the optimism would break down. Obviously Americans would like for the one language to be English. But people living in France would be horrified at the thought of giving up their beloved French. How could Jews give up Hebrew and still remain Jewish? Every society has deep cultural memories rooted in its language. That’s one of the reasons that the story of the Tower of Babel is so compelling. Language is an integral part of who we are. In this sense language is kind of like the Garden of Eden: we can never go back and undo our history. Each culture has its own poetry, history, science and religion written down in its own language. That way the culture gets passed on to the next generation. One obvious question is always: how did things get this way? In this story about Babel everyone spoke the same language and they shared the same culture. Their mistake was trying to build a tower. What’s wrong with that? The real mistake wasn’t in building the tower itself but in the motivation behind the construction: And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. Building a tower isn’t the problem. But trying to make it “reach unto heaven” is a very serious problem. This is the problem that the ancient Greeks warned against in the concept of “hubris” or excessive pride. Heaven is the home of the gods. Men who try to storm the citadel of the gods by force will be punished. In this case the punishment is to make men misunderstand one another: And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. Of course this story could be read in other ways too. Maybe this was an early warning against the corruption of urban life: And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. The Lord was not impressed with city life. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. In this interpretation the cultivated “city life” may be destructive to our most primitive natural instincts. This is a theme Freud will explore later in Civilization and Its Discontents. It may also help explain why a serpent was the vehicle of temptation in the Garden of Eden story. Scientists tell us that part our brains (the basal ganglia) still contain remnants of reptilian-like instincts. These are the primitive urges Freud talks about: the impulse to eat, to mate, and to kill. Another explanation of the Tower story may be a warning against the concentration of political power into one centralized source. This interpretation would explain why from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. The Lord wanted political power to be dispersed. If the Tower had succeeded people may have been tempted to come from all over the world and be under the power of one king in Babel, City of the Great Tower. But maybe the best interpretation is the simplest one: just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean that we SHOULD. Modern science has made many great discoveries and we’re on the verge of many more. Some of these discoveries may prove to make our lives better. Others may prove to be our undoing. No doubt building a tower started with the best of intentions then; no doubt cloning and genetic experiments have the best of intentions now. But the stories of the Tree in the Garden and the Tower of Babel stand as warnings: beware of hubris. It contains bitter fruit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

BIBLE: Genesis 3 (The Fall) 2012

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. So begins one of the most famous passages in all of Western literature. Virtually everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve and the literary shorthand is simply The Fall. The serpent tempts Eve and as a result human fate is dramatically changed forever. Genesis doesn’t say where this serpent came from or how it got into the garden. The point is: this is no ordinary serpent. It can talk and reason. The serpent’s first question is simple: hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Amazingly Eve doesn’t seem surprised by a talking serpent. She just answers the question in a matter-of-fact way. Her answer is simple because her life is simple: We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. Eve has never encountered deception before so the next statement catches her off guard. The serpent says: Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Never get into an argument with a serpent. This serpent deals in half-truths. Adam and Eve DIDN’T die (at least not physically and not immediately) and their eyes WERE opened (just not in the way they wanted). But Adam and Eve do become estranged from God. This could be interpreted as a sort of spiritual death or the death of innocence. Again the serpent was half right: their eyes were “opened” once they lost their innocence. Of course this could also be interpreted as a description of the ordinary pains of growing up. We all eventually trade the innocence of childhood for the burdens and responsibility of entering into the adult world. Maybe this is what happened to Adam and Eve. But how does knowing good and evil make Adam and Eve become like “gods?” They already knew what good was. The Garden and everything around them was good. “Good” was the only thing they knew. So where did this concept of evil come from? There’s no mention of evil earlier in the story. Did it come from the serpent? Or was it the result of Adam and Eve choosing to disobey God? There are more questions here than there are answers. But we do know some things about the following passage: the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise… Eve “saw” three things here: (1) since it was “good for food” we assume there was a physical attraction to it, maybe for health purposes; (2) it was “pleasant to the eyes” which sounds like there was some sort of aesthetic appeal, maybe to the heart or the emotions; and (3) it would “make one wise” which is obviously an appeal to the mind, probably to the rational element. Health, beauty and wisdom are all good things. Why would God prohibit us from enjoying this “fruit?” This argument persuaded Eve. The serpent said Ye shall not surely die and the fruit didn’t immediately kill them. The serpent said they would know good and evil and they did find out what evil is. Then we come to a passage of pure poetic inspiration: And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. They heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. This statement breaks down under normal analysis of the text. How can a voice “walk” (in a garden or anywhere else)? But as a poetic device it works beautifully and implies an intimate closeness that once existed between the human and the divine. What happened? Did the human race grow up? Do we still need religion now that we have modern science? Marx thinks religion is a human fantasy. Freud thinks religion is an obsessive neurosis. Other Great Books portray The Fall as an accurate story about how evil grows within the human heart. For this view read The Gospel of Mark, Augustine, Dante, Goethe, Kant or Dostoevsky. And the Great Conversation continues…

Saturday, February 11, 2012

BIBLE: Genesis 1 (Creation) 2012

The Bible is an easy book to read but a hard one to understand. One of the reasons it’s so hard is because it seems so simple. Genesis is a good example. It’s a deceptively “simple” book. The first sentence seems to start off clearly enough: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth… Ok. That makes sense. But let’s pause and consider this statement. The reason it makes sense is because we’ve trained our minds to make sense of the words. We understand the words therefore we think we understand what the words mean. Do we? In the beginning… That means the start of something; in this case the start of the universe. We understand “the beginning” when we say we’ll be there for the beginning of the movie or we’ll be back at the beginning of the next school year. But Genesis is talking about something on an entirely different level. Before the beginning of a movie we may want to have lunch or go shopping. Before next school year we may be spending the summer with Uncle Andy and Aunt Bea in Mayberry. But we’ll be SOMEWHERE before we go to the movie or go back to school. In the case of the universe though in the beginning means… what, exactly? Where was the universe BEFORE the beginning? Apparently nowhere. So where was all the stuff we see today? There was no stuff. So what was there in the beginning? Nothing. There are very few people who can visualize what “nowhere” and “nothing” really mean. Maybe a few highly-trained mathematicians can do it. Maybe a few scattered Zen Buddhist monks can do it. Ordinary people can’t. All our attempts to truly understand the words in the beginning (in the context of the universe) just leave us more confused. And those are just the first three words of the Bible. The next one is a real doozy: God. Who is God? It doesn’t say. Where did he come from? No one knows. How long has God been around? No one knows that either. Obviously God’s older than the universe if he created it. Beyond that, what more can we really say about this God we’ve just met in the opening sentence of Genesis? Actually we can say quite a bit. For one thing, we know that God created the heaven and the earth. Whatever else God may be we have to think in terms of some sort of primary active force. For instance, God’s activity can be seen in the physical universe: the heaven and the earth. Another thing we can say is that the heaven and the earth that we see around us are NOT God. The sheer size of the physical universe may astonish us but this isn’t God. God created it. If there’s a pot there must be a potter. Pots don’t create themselves. Actually potters don’t create pots either. Technically potters make pots by transforming materials that are already there. True creation means making something out of nothing. Only God can make something out of nothing. This is what happened at the beginning of the universe: God said, Let there be light… and light suddenly appeared. Why light? Why not make snowballs first, or diamonds or toads? Here’s another concept we can take away from Genesis: God works in an orderly fashion. Things don’t just happen randomly. They follow one another in what we might call a natural order. First we need light and dark. This is the basic separation of day and night. The sky comes next: God made the firmament. Then God called the dry land Earth, and filled it with lush vegetation. So by this time we have the earth and the sky below the heavens. But God isn’t finished: And God made two great lights, the sun and the moon. Then God created living creatures: great whales…and every winged fowl… until finally God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. This may not seem very orderly at first reading. How can plants be created before the sun? But we’re used to thinking in terms of time, chronologically. God’s order seems to be an order of being. First come things that don’t move: inanimate objects. Then things that are inanimate but do move: like the sun and the moon. Next come creatures that can move of their own accord: whales and birds and so forth. Finally God makes a creature who can read the Bible (even if he can’t fully understand it).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Marx on Alienated Labor: A Response

You are right to point out the essential disagreement between Kant and Marx when it comes to conscience versus wealth. Kant wants to distinguish moral action from immoral action because in the normal course of things we commonly confuse the two. What makes an action moral or "right" is that it be done as if it were a natural law willed by God, and that it not be self contradictory. Thus, every moral act is evaluated in terms of its general use in society. For example, I am starving. If I don't have any money, is it alright for me to steal food from my neighbor in order to stay alive? Kant would say that you must first imagine the consequences of stealing if it were done by everyone. Clearly, if everyone stole food from their neighbor, then society would break down. Each person cannot decide on their own to steal or not to steal as if they were somehow above the law. For laws to have any meaning, they must be enforced. For a particular law to be just, it must apply to everyone, both wealthy and poor. The moral value of every action, according to Kant, depends on its universality. Thus, the moral law-- "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is an expression of this universality. It applies to everyone at all times, not just a few people now and then. You do not steal your neighbor's food because you would not want him to steal your food. Therefore, it is immoral.

Marx, however, is talking about morality in a world without God or where natural justice is subverted. He argues that employers and workers are never equal in power and therefore normal rules of morality do not apply. In capitalism, Marx observes that the owner of the factory has all the power because he owns the means of production. He sets the wage of the employee. If the employee is unwilling to work for the wage he is offered, he may go elsewhere. But what happens if the worker is hungry, without money to buy food, and there is nowhere else to go for employment? Then he must accept the owner's wage or starve. According to Marx, it is always in the owner's best interest if wages are kept low and the worker is hungry. On the other hand, the worker desires to obtain the highest wage he can get. Therefore, the owner and the worker are always in conflict. One desires that wages be as low as possible; the other wants wages to be as high as possible. How is the conflict to be resolved?

Normally, the conflict between labor and money (or wages) is resolved in the open market where competition determines price. The wages that a worker earns should, in theory, settle at the point where demand meets supply. If many people are seeking the same job at the same time, the wage for that job will fall because the supply of labor (equivalent to the number of applicants for the job) exceeds the demand. In a free market, other openings for other jobs will exist to sustain a minimum level of wage for the worker. But what happens when the market is not balanced? For example, if the pool of labor exceeds the number of jobs. This often occurs in small towns where there is only one large employer. Of course, people can always move and find jobs in other parts of the world. But what if you move to another city and are unable to find work? Just how free is the "free" market?

It turns out that it's not free at all. Moving one's family is not a simple thing. You have to leave your home and your neighborhood, take your children out of school, leave your friends behind, and take off for a new place. It takes money to relocate. What happens when you get to the new place and there is no job? Now you are stuck in a strange place where you do not know anyone, where you have no family or friends, and no one to help you. When your money runs out, who will feed your family?

This is the plight of the worker in a market where the owner controls all the conditions of employment. If you are a coal miner, then you have to go to a coal mine to find employment. If there is only one coal mine in your area, then you must accept whatever wage is offered to you, or go elsewhere. Prior to the age of collective bargaining, the owner of the factory had all the leverage in labor relations. If there happened to be other factories in the area, then the owners of these different factories simply agreed among themselves not to raise wages. If the workers went out on strike, the owners simply went out and rounded up other poor people and brought them in to replace the striking workers.

When people are starving, they become desperate and often resort to violence. This situation leads to the breakdown of society. It is meaningless to say to a starving man that he is breaking the law when he steals food. But law always yields to nature. Where is the morality of this arrangement? You tell a starving man that he must not steal food, but the owner of a factory can ruin an entire neighborhood when he refuses to pay a higher wage. Marx analyzed this relationship of labor to management and decided that the existing arrangement was not merely unjust but despicable. When an owner builds a factory and hires people to work for him, he assumes a moral obligation to his employees that he will pay them an honest wage and they will give him an honest day's work. Marx felt that people are more than just a commodity. They are not a lump of clay to be molded into a particular job and then thrown away when cheaper clay is available elsewhere. In Marx's time, people were not as mobile. They could not travel all over the world seeking the highest wage for their labor. Even today, when a Ford or GM plant closes down and relocates to Mexico, the employees cannot simply leave their homes and neighborhoods and follow the owner to his new factory in Juarez.

So where do the unemployed go when they lose their jobs? This is a question that Kant does not ask. He is concerned about universal rules of moral behavior, not about the welfare of individuals. The problems of society cannot be solved by invoking a simple moral calculus like the golden rule. Of course, if everyone lived by the golden rule and treated others as they would like to be treated, the world would be a friendlier place. But that is not the world we live in. Marx's criticism of capitalism is based on his observation that the struggle between labor and money is dehumanizing. Under the old feudal system, the peasant worked in the fields which belonged to his master. As long as the work was done, his time was his own. With the collapse of feudalism, the worker had to find other means of employment. Lacking money, he could not buy land of his own or even a house to live in. He could find employment as a migrant worker or go to the city and work in a factory. Although the life of a migrant worker was hard, he was able to feed his family (except in times of drought), and worked only according to the season. With the rise of industrialism, the factory worker becomes a slave to the clock. He works all through the year, rain or shine, and, if necessary, all through the night. He is paid the lowest wage that the owner can give him. There is no time off for sickness and no vacations. The worker is free to quit his job if he chooses. But his options are limited. If he goes to another factory, he will find a similar arrangement.

Marx sees that this relationship between owner and worker is unequal. Unless the worker has a unique skill that is needed by the owner, he will be easily replaced. He is exploited because he has no bargaining power. But this unequal distribution of power will change. In time, the grueling conditions of their labor cause men to join together and confront the owner with a new strategy: the threat of work stoppage.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

BIBLE: Genesis and Marx

Karl Marx went to great lengths to explain the human condition in socio-economic terms. In his view the world contains two kinds of people: workers and capitalists. According to Marx most of the evils of the world can be explained by the constant struggle between the workers (who are desperately trying to survive) and the capitalists (who are exploiting the workers in order to make more money). But the Bible gives a different account of why things are the way they are. Genesis puts a different emphasis on the importance of things. Genesis lays out a worldview where the most important thing is to establish a proper relationship with Yahweh, the creator of the universe. Marx believes the world is a wreck and the reason can be explained in strictly material terms: the struggle between workers and capitalists. But Genesis says there’s a deeper reason that the world is so messed up. It wasn’t created that way. Humanity has “fallen” from its original state of innocence and as a result dragged down the whole world with it. This is the primeval story of Adam and Eve. And that’s one reason Marx is adamantly opposed to religion. He believes workers have been duped by this “Adam and Eve” story about some far-off god punishing some far-off parents in a mythical Garden of Eden. For Marx religion is the spontaneous activity of human fantasy, of the human heart and brain. Religion reacts independently as an alien activity of gods or devils upon the individual. In Genesis religion is not “the spontaneous activity of human fantasy” but is instead the heart of reality: the human relationship with the divine. And developing a relationship with this god (we’ll call him Yahweh) is not an “alien activity” at all but is a natural response of gratitude to a divine creator who has given life and blessed humanity with a world that is essentially good. The message of Genesis actually agrees with Marx in some ways. If the world is messed up then it’s our fault, not God’s. Marx agrees but for a different reason: for Marx there are no gods, much less one big “God” of everything. Genesis claims that there is a god. In fact, there is ONE God and he even has a name: Yahweh. Any worldview must take this fundamental fact into account. It should be noted that some Great Books writers have accepted this interpretation. Kant, for example, says that conscience is the representative within us of the divine judgment. This is a faint echo of the Garden of Eden story still residing within our hearts. Marx flatly rejects this notion: Theology explains the origin of evil by the fall of man; that is, it asserts as a historical fact what it should explain. For Marx the origin of evil is not the fall of man but the rise of the capitalist, the ability of one class of people to exploit another class of people on a large scale. For workers the primary source of the problem lies not in our relationship to the divine but in our relationship to our work. So the proper question for Marx is this one: what is the value of our work? In our reading of Genesis we get an ambiguous answer. On one hand we see God himself working. At the beginning of creation God works for six days to make the heavens and the earth. Then on the seventh day he rests. This view of work implies that work is a divinely-sanctioned activity. Genesis also states that God created man in his own image. So when we work we’re doing one of the primary tasks we were born (created) for. This interpretation is the equivalent of the modern “work ethic” and says that work is a good thing. It develops good habits, produces wealth, and keeps us out of trouble. On the other hand, work can be viewed as the punishment given to Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. This interpretation gives little value to work itself. Marx rejects both of these views. There’s no need for God in Marx’s world, which is focused on the here-and-now of material reality. The author of Genesis probes more deeply into the mystery of existence and finds that the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. For Marx this is pure gibberish. For the author of Genesis it’s the ultimate reality.

Friday, February 03, 2012

MARX: Alienated Labor, Part 2 2012

True Story. A philosophy professor goes to a major department store and buys a blanket on sale. When he gets home he finds out the blanket has a hole in it. So he takes it back to the store for an exchange. The sales clerk points to the sign: All Sales Final. But this one has a hole in it, says the professor. I just want to exchange it for one that doesn’t have a whole in it. All sales are final, the clerk insists, that means no exchanges. Then let me speak to your supervisor. She’s at lunch right now. Then I’ll go straight to the top; who’s the CEO? I don’t know, the clerk admits, you’ll have to write company headquarters. Ok, where’s the headquarters located? I have no idea. This whole exchange is not unusual. But it’s more than just a case of poor customer service. The sales clerk in this incident is “alienated” from her job. (According to Merriam-Webster’s Learners Dictionary to “alienate” means to cause (someone) to feel that she or he no longer belongs in a particular group, society, etc. For example: alienated young people = young people who do not feel that they have a part in society.) This sales clerk has a case of what Marx calls “alienated labor.” The sales clerk doesn’t feel like she has an important part in society. It’s just a boring job so she can pay her bills. That’s all. It’s not an integral part of who she is or who she wants to be. In the story about Rothschild’s Fiddle Jacob took great pride in the workmanship of the coffins he made. In The Apology Socrates knew exactly who he was; he was a philosopher. In Heart of Darkness Marlow was captain of his own ship. Well, actually it was just a little steamboat on the verge of falling apart. But still, Marlow was a captain. It gave him an identity. The sales clerk from the department store doesn’t want the identity of a sales clerk. There are sales clerks and stock clerks and custodians and cashiers all over the country who don’t feel personal identification with the work that they do. They work because they have to. This is perfectly normal in a modern economy. But according to Marx it’s not normal for human beings to feel so alienated from their work. He says that alienated labor (1) alienates nature from man; and (2) alienates man from himself, from his own active function, his life activity; so it alienates him from the species. In this case the sales clerk is not working outside in the sunshine under an open sky growing her own food or making her own clothing. She’s stuck inside a store all day long working for somebody else. So first of all she’s alienated from nature. And she’s also out on the floor all day selling things she didn’t make; things she isn’t even interested in, like blankets. So secondly she’s alienated from herself, her own preferences. Finally, when the philosophy professor comes in to exchange his blanket the sales clerk is forced to follow store policy that all sales are final. That means no refunds or exchanges. This irritates the customer and alienates the sales clerk from him too. She has become alienated first from nature, then from herself, and finally from her own species, other human beings. Something is wrong with this picture. Marx diagnoses the problem like this: The animal is one with its activity. It does not distinguish the activity from itself. It IS its activity. A cat is a cat. It doesn’t try to become a sales clerk too. But human beings are people PLUS something else. Some people become sales clerks. Others become philosophy professors. Marx puts it in these terms: Conscious life activity distinguishes man from the life activity of animals. Unlike animals most people voluntarily choose what to do with their lives. Jacob made coffins but he also played the fiddle. Socrates chose to be a philosopher. Marlow chose to be a steamboat captain. But Marx complains that this sales clerk had limited options available to her. The owners of a company can choose when and where to open or close a store. They have the money to do it. The sales clerk has to have a job right now. So she will work for low wages in a job she hates. This isn’t fair says Marx. How did the world get this way? Next reading: Genesis.