Marx begins this chapter with a discussion about the character of the labor- process. According to Marx, labor is pivotal for people's self-definition. Marx believes that how people labor largely defines how they live. The way humans labor sets them apart from animals, and they have a special relationship with those products of their labor. In this chapter, Marx attempts to create a schema for understanding how the production process works, and then more particularly how the capitalist structure works.

Marx's labor theory of value again makes an appearance, as he tries to explain a seeming paradox. A capitalist purchases all of the inputs needed to make a commodity (labor-power, raw materials, etc.) at their value. He also sells the end-product at its value. If this is the case, where does the surplus value come from? If there's no surplus value, then capitalism cannot exist, because there would be no profit. Marx's answer comes from the unique character of labor- power. Labor-power's use-value (what it can create) is not the same thing as its exchange-value (what is needed to sustain the worker). A worker sells himself at his value, but he produces more than this value. In this way, the capitalist gains surplus-value. This is significant, because it explains how exploitation can occur as the result of a series of freely made trades. The worker could complain that he is not being paid for the value of what he produces. However, the capitalist can reply that the worker is being paid his value. Once the worker is paid for a day's work, the capitalist has the right to use him for a day. Justice is part of the overall mode of production of the times, and as a result, this exchange can be considered "just."

Why do the workers put up with such exploitation? Couldn't they demand higher wages, that match the value their labor-power produces? Marx's answer is that the workers don't have the capacity to work without the capitalists; they require factories and other means of production. The workers are selling an abstract capacity to labor, and because of this, the capitalist is able to exploit them by only paying labor-power's value. Consider whether you think Marx's characterization of the labor market is fair. Does labor have the ability to fight exploitation and set wages closer to the value of what they produce? Think of this both historically and theoretically.