K for Kapital

From one of my readings for ‘History of Economic Ideas’:

The consumption of labour-power by capital is, besides, so rapid that the labourer, half-way through his life, has already more or less completely lived himself out. He falls into the ranks of the supernumeraries, or is thrust down from a higher to a lower step in the scale. It is precisely among the work people of modern industry that we meet with the shortest duration of life. Dr Lee, Medical Officer of Health for Manchester, stated “that the average age at death of the Manchester… upper middle class was 38 years, while the average age at death of the labouring class was 17; while at Liverpool those figures were represented as 35 against 15. It thus appeared that the well-to-do classes had a lease of life which was more than double the value of that which fell to the lot of the less favoured citizens.”

In my proper reading summary for class, this passage probably won’t come up for comment at all. Some famous names stuck out, though.

Also, if we think those life-expectancy figures are grim, they’re not at all unthinkable in the present day, though our thoughts about labour and labourers are often quickly redirected.