Wednesday 4 December 2013

Marx on the Power of Money

That which is for me through the medium of money - that for which I can pay (i.e. which money can buy) - that am I, the possessor of the money. The extent of the power of the money is the extent of my power. Money's properties are my properties and essential powers - the properties and powers of its possessor, Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality, I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore, I am not ugly for the effect of ugliness - its deterrent power - is nullified by money. I, in my character as an individual, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame, I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and therefore so is its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest.

- Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Harmondsworth: Penguin, p.128


Anonymous said...

...and so in a nutshell the old fraud explains why people strive so hard for money and why the capitalist system is so much more in tune with people's aspirations. By way of contrast socialist notions of equality (you cannot get the beautiful woman however hard you strive) are so contrary to fundamental human nature. Hence the oppression and compulsion found in all attempts to implement a socialist system. People have always fled from socialist systems to capitalist systems in pursuit of their dreams. Capitalism, flawed but in tune with human nature. Best wishes.

Phil said...

Actually, socialism is - or at least as Marx understood it - about securing the social conditions that would allow each individual to develop in their own unique way, without work-as-necessity and all kinds of other crap from getting in its way. "The free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." Those words are not from any conservative thinker.

And human nature. Are we still talking about that? If there is such a thing, how to explain its change throughout history? For most of our history, about 90,000 out of our 100,000 years has been spent in hunter/gatherer bands and only 500 in production for profit. Which expresses our innate qualities?

Shawn Hartwell said...

I had the pleasure of reading a book by Marx and it spoke very true to me. It's indeed sad that his work is always put into a bad light, but I don't see how anyone can deny how true those words speak.

Thanks for the reminder of Marx's work!

Phil said...

That is a brilliant bit of spam.

Chris said...

It is a shame we have to waste time with banal and cretinous arguments about capitalism = human nature. This ignores the entire history of human development and society.

Most people do not strive for money actually. Most people strive for the use values that money can buy. Hence the debt levels in society and general lack of hard cash.

A society that delivers primarily for use values rather than profit would seem more in touch with human nature. But we must never fall into the trap of believing that the desire for particular use values is stamped at birth. Rather it is socially conditioned. Consumerism is an historical development rather than a law of the universe.

Phil said...

When I have to deal with dumb Tory trolls in future, I'm tempted to just refer them to my post on stupid empiricism.