WAGE-LABOUR AND CAPITAL
commodity that can pass from the hand of one owner to that of
another. He himself is a commodity, but his labour-power is not
his commodity. The serf sells 1 only a portion of his labour-
power. It is not he who receives wages from the owner of the
land; it is rather the owner of the land who receives a tribute
from him. The serf belongs to the soil, and to the lord of the soil
he brings its fruit. The free labourer, on the other hand, sells his
very self, and that by fractions. He auctions off eight, ten, twelve,
fifteen hours of his life, one day like the next, to the highest bidder, to the owner of raw materials, tools, and means of life, i.e., to
the capitalist. The labourer belongs neither to an owner nor to
the soil, but eight, ten, twelve, fifteen hours of his daily life belong
to whomsoever buys them. The worker leaves the capitalist, to
whom he has sold himself, as often as he chooses, and the capitalist discharges him as often as he sees fit, as soon as he no
longer gets any use, or not the required use, out of him. But the
worker, whose only source of income is the sale of his labour-
power, cannot leave the whole class of buyers, i.e., the capitalist
class, unless he gives up his own existence. He does not belong
to this or to that capitalist, but to the capitalist class; and it is for
him to find his man, i.e., to find a buyer in this capitalist class.
Before entering more closely upon the relation of capital to
wage-labour, we shall present briefly the most general conditions
which come into consideration in the determination of wages.
Wages, as we have seen, are the price of a certain commodity,
labour-power. Wages, therefore, are determined by the same
laws that determine the price of every other commodity. The
question then is, How is the price of a commodity determined?
1 "Sell" is not a very exact expression, for serfdom in its purity did
not involve any relations of buying and selling between the serf and the
lord of the manor, the tributes of the former to the latter consisting in
labour and in kind. It is evident that Marx uses here the word "sells"
in the general sense of alienation.—Translator.