Plight of illegal immigrants into the USA



First Theory: Karl Marx

Analysis of the Evidence

Second Theorist: Max Weber

Analysis of Evidence


The event being investigated in this study was published in the New York Times on May 24. 2014. The article is about the very low pay for working prisoners in the U.S. private jails and about allegations about them being exploited. The article is written by Ian Urbina and is titled “Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor.” The article is available at the following link:

The article describes the plight of illegal immigrants into the U.S. and how the government policy has prevented them from being employed in the U.S. However, when these very illegal immigrants land up in the prisons, especially in the private prisons of the country, they are forced to contribute labor at very low rates or even without pay. The article states: “it (the prison system) is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less” (URBINA). This happens at the prisons, especially the private ones, where the illegal immigrants are held when caught by the authorities.

In 2013, the article states, more than 60,000 immigrants were made to work I the U.S. prisons which is more than the number of people employed by any other employer in the U.S. This was available from the data disclosed by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The data states that very low payments of 13 cents an hour saves the private companies running prisons more than $40 million or more a year. This money goes to the private companies as the work that is forced upon the inmates would otherwise have had to be outsourced to contractors and thus the private companies would have had to pay the bills.

The report also stated: “some immigrants held at county jails work for free, or are paid with sodas or candy bars, while also providing services like meal preparation for other government institutions” (URBINA).

First Theory: Karl Marx

Marx’s theory on capitalism states that workers are exploited under capitalism. Marx proposes that the law of value sates that the commodities are exchanged on the basis of equivalent value or as exchange of goods and services that are equivalents. Marx sys that the at the starting point where money is transformed into capital there is an exchange of equivalents which explains the transformation. Capitalists tend to buy the goods or the raw materials at their value and sell the same articles at their value. And for capitalists, the process of selling ends with the capitalist drawing out more value from the sale than he did while he out the value into the process in the beginning. This is the crux of capitalism, according to Marx (Bloch).

Hence the definition of capitalism can be made as those trades where profits are explained by a little addition of a bit more price to the articles for themselves. Capitalists therefore operate with a notion that adds a standard mark up to the original price. However the first price war among the capitalist market was viewed in the 1940s with the development of technology and the advent of the machines.

Marx claims that the capitalists continually try and overdo other capitalists as well as the working class by constantly pushing up the prices which would in increased profits. However they are also often restricted in their attempts that are imposed by the law of value which is considered as a regulator for the system of pricing. Moreover, price marking-up results in gains for one while resulting in losses for the other. This, to Marxist economists is difficult to understand — how the capitalists manage to fill up their pockets more and more just sitting at their homes and waiting for the dividends to plop on to their bank accounts.

The capitalists, according to Marxists economists, is given a whip in their hands by the historic dispossession that the ancestors of the working class like the peasants and artisans, follow the hard work way of earning for a living. Marx’s theory states that in this condition, the capitalists need to find a commodity market where there is availability of a free worker. While such a worker has to be able to dispose of the labor power that he possesses into the commodity in a manner that it was his own and the worker should not have any other commodity to sell. Marx says that such workers also need to be ‘free’ from everything that helps to realize the labor power (Bowles).

In the natural world people believe that they get paid for the work they do such as on weekends when we do extra work we expect to get additional money and when we get off work we lose money. In general, many are in the piece work segment where the money obtained is linked directly to the effort that is put in while at work. That is how the general perception about the relationship between work and pay is to the common man.

But according to Marx, a determinate lump of work that is done is not bought by capitalists. Rather they tend to buy the capacity and to make the most profits, the capitalists tend to churn out the most of the capacity from the workers to the greatest extent as is possible.

In modern economy, experts tend to explain the difference in pay by the efficiency wage theory where some workers are paid more than the minimum pay. They explain that the capitalists want to hang on to the skills of such workers by paying them more than the minimum pay. This can result in such workers according some form of loyalty and commitment to the employer and may also feel that their future is secure. However even the efficiency wage theory tends to accepts that fact that the employers of such workers get the capacity of the worker by paying more.

According to Marx the terms labor power or capacity is the accumulated amount of the bodily and mental capabilities that are present in a human being. This is used to produce use-value of any kind by such human beings. The period of time that is required for production is denoted by the value of labor power. This characteristic of labor is like any other commodity. This value of labor power is also denoted in eh reproduction of the article as well. ‘A definite amount of average social labor’ is what the value of such labor is — according to Marxian theory, which is inherent in the labor. Therefore, the capacity of a living individual is the only existence of labor power. This is related to the production presupposed the worker’s existence. Therefore, the reproduction of himself is the only dependent factor for production of labor (Engels).

Therefore, from the above discussions based on Marxian theory of capitalism and labor power, it can be said that the what a worker is paid for by an employer is not commensurate with the work he or she does. It is actually a value for keeping the worker at work.

In a capitalistic economy, since a worker does not have access to an independent means to production. Therefore, a capitalist can simply come around with money and hire a worker. The means of production is generally owned by the capitalist class in the society as a whole. The amount of money or wage that is paid to a worker is just enough to keep the soul and the body together — that is just enough for existence, at a rate that is the present normal living standard for the workers in the society at that point in time.

In the modern times and in greatly developed capitalist economies, the normal basic living standards could be quite high by historically or through a period of struggle. Such living standard can be related to having a nice house that is full of electronic kits, may be a car and a freezer that is often full of food. However, despite this, the gap between the workers and the capitalists are very wide and in the modern day society, this gap is wider than ever. In such situations, the capitalists would be provided with a never-ending flow of unearned income as the workers would tend to hold on to that living standard as is normal for a worker and thereby carry on with the job that is at hand and provided by the capitalists.


How does this event associate with boundaries defined within the exploitative relationship between the capitalist and the worker?


The Capitalistic tendency is to pay for capacity of the worker and extract as much of the capacity from the workers as is possible to make the largest possible gain/profit.

Analysis of the Evidence

Marx’s theory first deals with the definition of capitalism and then the value of labor. Marx defines capitalism as individuals accruing of money and with a tendency that tends to pay as little as possible to the workers while churning out the maximum that is possible from the workers. In situations, where the workers, in an effort to maintain a certain minimum and normal standard of living, would tend to continue with the job at hand provided for by the capitalists, the capitalists continue to make money while the gap between the working calls and the capitalists keep widening

Moreover, since the workers do not have an independent means to production, they are forced to continue to work for the employer who extracts as much of labor as possible from them for as little compensation as possible.

This is how Marists economic theory explains exploitation of workers and the working class by the capitalists. According to Marx, this tendency of exploitation by the capitalists is not the characteristic of capitalists alone. He says that all rulers in history have been able to maintain themselves through the y exploiting the oppressed people.

The Marxists theory of surplus labor also explains exploitation. I situations where any part of society has any form of monopoly over the means of production, the means of maintenance of the owner of the means of production is supplemented by the worker after he gives labor time that is necessary for his own maintenance irrespective of the antecedents, the culture, the country or creed off the owner and irrespective of the period in history the owner is from.

Marx’s above theories and assumptions can be used to explain the U.S. private prisons exploiting the illegal immigrants. The immigrants do not have any form independent means of production and have to work for the companies. Moreover, since there is just one employers, they do not have an alternative to look for better working conditions including payments. Hence they are forced to work for the companies that own the private prisons and get exploited.

Second Theorist: Max Weber

Max Weber tried to describe capitalism in the light of religion. He tried to related capitalism to the ethics of ascetic Protestantism as the driving force behind the emergence of the spirit of modern capitalism. The creation of capitalistic spirit according to Weber, was influenced by the religious ideas of various groups like the Calvinists. As a correlation between capitalism and being Protestant, Weber argues that while capitalism urges individuals to view profit as meeting an end in itself and that the pursuing of profit is virtuous, he cites the Protestantism concept of the worldly “calling” where worldly activity are given a religious character. Weber discussed Calvinism, a branch of Protestantism where it is said that its followers looked into the worldly activities to obtain clues about whether they were saved or doomed by God. Therefore, they began to value profit along with material success as signs that God was favorable to them. Similar attitudes, though to a lesser degree were present in other religious groups like the Pietists, Methodists and the Baptist (Thompson).

According to Weber, class is not identified by property relationship but is dependent on the market place. He also believed that class is of recent origin in history with the emergence of the modern marketing integrated economies of the market economies.

Weber says that the development of the bureaucracy and the band of trained official is a feature that is unique to the West and the West is considered to be the modern rational state.

Weber also classifies capitalism as not only the rush to make profits but rather as a pursuit to create an economic condition which enable forever-renewable profits. The amount of money made over a period in business against the amount of money spent to make the gain is the fundamental principle of capitalism. In this sense, it can be argued that capitalism had been in existence in every civilization in history (Weber and Swedberg).

However, the West has developed this capitalism theory to the extent that was not present ever before and he described this characteristic as ‘the rational capitalistic organization of (formally) free labor’. This is denoted by book keeping, separation of business and the household and rational industrial organization. These are however only possible if there is free labor which allows exact calculations (Weber, Parsons and Henderson).


Is this the most recent form of rationalization of labor process of the penal system? How is this being racialization – calculating everything based on wages and budget?


The Spirit of Capitalism is embedded in the religious and cultural belief of the West apart from having presence in every civilization in history

Analysis of Evidence

Putting Weber’s theories into the context of use of labor in the private U.S. prions, is can be said that the problem of capitalism lies in the rational organization of labor and the bourgeois capitalism. Weber proposed that one need to question the advent of rational law and administration that is evident in the West and why other regions of the world did not follow the same path. He ascribes this to the spread of religious beliefs like Protestantism that created the spirit of capitalism and which was only predominantly present in the West.

Therefore, according to Weber, the spirit of Capitalism and capitalism itself is embedded in religious and cultural beliefs — in addition to the historical traits, where profits is the end all. Materialistic gains determine the degree ot which God has made created an individual to be saved and hence capitalists see no harm in following the path to profits. Again profits are related to the difference of money gain and put in to make the gain and hence capitalists do would not be wronged if they try and put in as little money as possible to make the most gains.

The condition of the illegal immigrants at the private prisons in the U.S. can be explained by Weber’s this theory of capitalism and labor which would seem justifiable to an extent.


The theories and explanations to capitalism and consequent concept of exploitation of workers indicate some similarities and some dissimilarities between the two theorists Karl Marx and Max Weber. While pursing diachronic analyses, both theorists have tried to understand the relationship between the modern form of capitalism and the specific historical circumstances that led to the development and spread of it.

Weber tried to find the roots of capitalism in the Western Protestant ethics and the beliefs of some other such religious groups and sects. He tried to identify the cultural values embodied in the Protestant ethics and the Puritans of the seventh-century. He believed that these ethics and values led to the ultimate development of modern capitalism.

According to Weber, capitalism was driven by the Protestant ethics in the 18th century which deviated from the path of salvation and focused on the striving to make for money and material gains which became completely understood as an end in itself. This belief according ot Weber, stems from the Protestant belief that the material gains made by an individual is indicative of whether God has saved that individual. In the end Weber tends to conclude that capitalism is a phenomenon that has come to show itself as a system that is compulsory and socially and culturally rooted and no one would be able to escape from it.

Weber, for example, described the 17th century Protestant ascetic as an individual who had a ‘vocational calling’ while the modern day individual is forced to possess a spirit of ‘vocational calling’.

Marx’s theories on capitalism are somewhat similar to that of Weber in the way that he too like Weber tried to understand the root and origin of capitalism. While unlike Weber, Marx did not look into the religious aspect for defining the root of capitalism, he tried ot look out for the development of capitalism from a social aspect and related to the development of science and technology. Marx looked at the history of mankind and civilizations and on the historical development of employee employer relationship to explain the rise of the modern form of capitalism.

Mar and Weber were similar in their arguments about capitalism when they both agreed that capitalism had historically existed in societies, cultures and civilization. However the method they used to explain this were different. Marx used the labor value theory to explain the existence of capitalism and exploitation of labor even in ancient times. He said that if an individual does not have the power and the means of production they would have to depend on other who have the means of production. Therefore, they become completely dependent on the individual with the means and work not only to fulfill their needs but also creates surplus labor to maintain the employer. Thereby the employer or the capitalist can sit back at home and earn money for which he has not contributed labor. This system, Marx argues, had been in place for ages and in many civilizations and was not really a new concept in that sense. However he mentions that the modern from of capitalism goes as far as capitalism can go.

Weber on the other hand also find that capitalism had been in existence in history and in ancient civilizations. He describes capitalism as a means to keep records where the gains are calculated by the money made and against the money put in to make the money gain. Therefore, this system, according to Weber, had been in existence in every civilization and hence capitalism is nothing new.

Another similarity in the two theorists in defining capitalism is the tendency of the capitalists to make as much gain as possible. Marx says that capitalists tend to buy the capability of labor and not the ability of the labor. The aim of capitalism is to make as much of profit as possible and for this the capitalist ties to churn out as much of the labor capability from a worker as possible with investing as little as possible for buying the capability. This explains the concept of exploitation of workers where the workers are forced to work more for less. Moreover, according to Marx, workers tend to want to latch on to the minimum normal living standards and hence they ten dot stick to the job at hand. Therefore, this gives the capitalist the chance to extract more value from the worker which results in exploitation.

A similar argument is given by Weber when he says that profit making is the end all of capitalist spirit. The amount of money put in and the amount generated from it is are the only considerations for a capitalistic environment. Hence a capitalist would always try to t make the most gains from the least money that he puts in. This is Weber’s explanation to exploitation in a capitalistic society.

Another similarity between the two theorists however emerges with respect to the definition and origin of class and class difference. Booth Marx and Weber say that the class and class differences were present in the societies since historical times and in every civilization where the ruling class always had their fill from the oppressed class. This class system became more prominent after the development of the capitalistic society.

Hence in context to the exploitation of the illegal immigrants into the U.S. in the private prisons, both the theorists and theories can explain the incident as well as suggest remedies for the same.


Bloch, Maurice. Marxist Analyses And Social Anthropology. Print.

Bowles, Paul. Capitalism. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2007. Print.

Engels, Friedrich. On Historical Materialism. New York: International Publishers, 1940. Print.

Massey, Garth. Readings For Sociology. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009. Print.

Pomeroy, Anne Fairchild. Marx And Whitehead. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004. Print.

Thompson, Kenneth. Readings From Emile Durkheim, Revised Edition. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.

URBINA, IAN. “Using Jailed Migrants As A Pool Of Cheap Labor.” N.p., 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.

Weber, Max, and Richard Swedberg. The Protestant Ethic And The Spirit Of Capitalism. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009. Print.

Weber, Max, Hans Gerth, and C. Wright Mills. From Max Weber. New York: Oxford University Press, 1958. Print.

Weber, Max, Talcott Parsons, and A. M Henderson. The Theory Of Social And Economic Organization. Print.

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