Third Manuscript

This is the third of several unpublished manuscripts written by Karl Marx in his mid-20s. He wrote them while living in Paris as a political refugee, at around the time he met and befriended Friedrich Engels.

It captures mid-20s Marx sketching out impressions of the result of applying dialectics to the subject of political economy, seeds which decades later bloomed as Capital.

Though it appears explosively eclectic, it is all kept incredibly unified by Marx’s insistence throughout that unity of opposites is the defining phenomenon to watch out for.

The text is taken from Gregor Benton’s 1974 translation of the documents available at the Marxists Internet Archive. I’ve made various small fixes and edits, and omitted the Hegel section for now. — R. D.


Private Property and Labor

The subjective essence of private property, private property as activity for itself, as subject, as person, is labor. It, therefore, goes without saying that only that political economy which recognized labor as its principle (Adam Smith), and which therefore no longer regarded private property as nothing more than a condition external to man, can be regarded as both a product of the real energy and movement of private property (it is the independent movement of private property become conscious of itself, it is modern industry as self), a product of modern industry, and a factor which has accelerated and glorified the energy and development of this industry and transformed it into a power belonging to consciousness.

Therefore, the supporters of the monetary and mercantile system, who look upon private property as a purely objective being for man, appear as fetish-worshippers, as Catholics, to this enlightened political economy, which has revealed — within the system of private property — the subjective essence of wealth. Engels was, therefore, right to call Adam Smith the Luther of political economy. [1] Just as Luther recognized religion and faith as the essence of the external world and, in consequence, confronted Catholic paganism; just as he transcended religion’s external religiosity by making religiosity the inner essence of man; just as he negated the idea of priests as something separate and apart from the layman by transferring the priest into the heart of the layman; so wealth as something outside man, and independent of him — and, therefore, only to be acquired and maintained externally — is abolished [aufgehoben]. i.e., its external and mindless objectivity is abolished inasmuch as private property is embodied in man himself and man himself is recognized as its essence — but this brings man himself into the province of religion. So, although political economy, whose principle is labor, appears to recognize man, it is, in fact, nothing more than the denial of man carried through to its logical conclusion: for man himself no longer stands in a relation of external tension to the external essence of private property — he himself has become the tense essence of private property. What was formerly being-external-to-oneself, man’s material externalization, has now become the act of alienation — i.e., alienation through selling [Verausserung]. This political economy, therefore, starts out by seeming to recognize man, his independence, his spontaneous activity, etc. Since it transfers private property into the very being of man, it can no longer be conditioned by local or national features of private property as something existing outside it. It (political economy) develops a cosmopolitan, universal energy which breaks through every limitation and bond and sets itself up as the only policy, the only universality, the only limitation, and the only bond. But then, as it continues to develop, it is forced to cast off its hypocrisy and step forth in all its cynicism. This it does, without troubling its head for one moment about all the apparent contradiction to which this doctrine leads, by developing in a more one-sided way, and, thus, more sharply and more logically, the idea of labor as the sole essence of wealth, by showing that the conclusions of this doctrine, unlike the original conception, are anti-human, and finally be delivering the death-blow to ground rent — that last individual and natural form of private property and source of wealth independent of the movement of labor, that expression of feudal property which has already become entirely economic and is therefore incapable of putting up any resistance to political economy (The Ricardo School). Not only does political economy become increasingly cynical from Smith through Say to Ricardo, Mill etc., inasmuch as the consequences of industry appeared more developed and more contradictory to the latter; the latter also became more estranged — consciously estranged — from man than their predecessors. But this is only because their science develops more logically and more truly. Since they make private property in its active form the subject, thereby making man as a non-being [Unwesen] the essence [Wesen], the contradiction in reality corresponds entirely to the contradictory essence which they have accepted as their principle. The discordant reality of industry, far from refusing their internally discordant principle, actually confirms it. Their principle is in fact the principle of this discordance.

The physiocratic doctrine of Dr. Quesnay forms the transition from the mercantile system to Adam Smith. Physiocracy is, in a direct sense, the economic dissolution of feudal property, but it is therefore just as directly the economic transformation and restoration of that property. The only real difference is that its language is no longer feudal but economic. All wealth is resolved into land and agriculture. The land is not yet capital; it is still a particular mode of existence of capital whose value is supposed to lie in its natural particularity. But land is a universal natural element, whereas the mercantile system considered that wealth existed only in precious metals. The object of wealth, its matter, has therefore attained the greatest degree of universality possible within the limits of nature — insofar as it is directly objective wealth even as nature. And it is only through labor, through agriculture, that land exists for man.

Consequently, the subjective essence of wealth is already transferred to labor. But, at the same time, agriculture is the only productive labor. Labor is, therefore, not yet grasped in its universal and abstract form, but is still tied to a particular element of nature as its matter and if for that reason recognized only in a particular mode of existence determined by nature. It is, therefore, still only a determinate, particular externalization of man — just as its product is conceived as a determinate form of wealth, due more to nature than to itself. Here, the land is still regarded as part of nature which is independent of man, and not yet as capital — i.e., as a moment of labor itself. Rather, labor appears as a moment of nature. But, since the fetishism of the old external wealth, which exists only as an object, has been reduced to a very simple element of nature, and since its essence has been recognized — even if only partially and in a particular way — in its subjective essence, the necessary advance has taken place in the sense that the universal nature of wealth has been recognized and labor has, therefore, been elevated in its absolute — i.e., abstract  — form to that principle. It is possible to argue against the Physiocrats that agriculture is no different from an economic point of view — that is, from the only valid point of view — from any other industry, and that the essence of wealth is therefore not a particular form of labor tied to a particular element, a particular manifestation of labor, but labor in general.

Physiocracy denies particular, external, purely objective wealth by declaring labor to be its essence. But, for physiocracy, labor is in the first place merely the subjective essence of landed property — it starts out from the type of property which appears historically as the dominant and recognized type. It simply turns landed property into alienated man. It abolishes the feudal character of landed property by declaring industry (agriculture) to be its essence; but it sets its face against the world of industry and acknowledges the feudal system by declaring agriculture to be the only industry.

Clearly, once the subjective essence is grasped of industry constituting itself in opposition to landed property — i.e., as industry — this essence includes within it that opposition. For, just as industry absorbs annulled landed property, so the subjective essence of industry at the same time absorbs the subjective essence of landed property.

Just as landed property is the first form of private property, and industry at first confronts it historically as nothing more than a particular sort of private property — or, rather, as the liberated slave of landed property — so this process is repeated in the scientific comprehension of the subjective essence of private property, of labor; labor appears at first only as agricultural labor, but later assumes the form of labor in general.

All wealth has become industrial wealth, wealth of labor, and industry is fully developed labor, just as the factory system is the perfected essence of industry — i.e., of labor — and industrial capital the fully developed objective form of private property.

Thus, we see that it is only at this point that private property can perfect its rule over men and become, in its most universal form, a world-historical power.

Private Property and Communism

But the antithesis between propertylessness and property is still an indifferent antithesis, not grasped in its active connection, its inner relation, not yet grasped as contradiction, as long as it is not understood as the antithesis between labor and capital. In its initial form, this antithesis can manifest itself even without the advanced development of private property — as, for example, in ancient Rome, in Turkey, etc. In such cases, it does not yet appear as established by private property itself. But labor, the subjective essence of private property as exclusion of property, and capital, objective labor as exclusion of labor, constitute private property in its developed relation of contradiction: a vigorous relation, therefore, driving towards resolution.

The supersession [Aufhebung] of self-estrangement follows the same course of self-estrangement. Private property is first considered only in its objective aspect, but still with labor as its essence. Its form of existence is therefore capital, which is to be abolished “as such” (Proudhon). Or the particular form of labor — levelled down, parcelled, and, therefore, unfree — is taken as the source of the harmfulness of private property and its humanly estranged existence. For example, Fourier, like the Physiocrats, regarded agriculture as at least the best form of labor, while Saint-Simon, on the other hand, declared industrial labor as such to be the essence and consequently wants exclusive rule by the industrialists and the improvement of the condition of the workers. Finally, communism [that is, crude or utopian communism, like Proudhon et al above] is the positive expression of the abolition of private property, and, at first, appears as universal private property. In grasping this relation in its universality, communism is:

(1) in its initial form only a generalization and completion of that relation (of private property). As such, it appears in a dual form: on the one hand, the domination of material property bulks so large that it threatens to destroy everything which is not capable of being possessed by everyone as private property; it wants to abstract from talent, etc., by force. Physical, immediate possession is the only purpose of life and existence as far as this communism is concerned; the category of worker is not abolished but extended to all men; the relation of private property remains the relation of the community to the world of things; ultimately, this movement to oppose universal private property to private property is expressed in bestial form — marriage (which is admittedly a form of exclusive private property) is counterposed to the community of women, where women become communal and common property. One might say that this idea of a community of women is the revealed secret of this as yet wholly crude and unthinking communism. Just as women are to go from marriage into general prostitution [2], so the whole world of wealth — i.e., the objective essence of man — is to make the transition from the relation of exclusive marriage with the private owner to the relation of universal prostitution with the community. This communism, inasmuch as it negates the personality of man in every sphere, is simply the logical expression of the private property which is this negation. Universal envy constituting itself as a power is the hidden form in which greed reasserts itself and satisfies itself, but in another way. The thoughts of every piece of private property as such are at least turned against richer private property in the form of envy and the desire to level everything down; hence these feelings in fact constitute the essence of competition. The crude communist is merely the culmination of this envy and desire to level down on the basis of a preconceived minimum. It has a definite, limited measure. How little this abolition of private property is a true appropriation is shown by the abstract negation of the entire world of culture and civilization, and the return to the unnatural simplicity of the poor, unrefined man who has no needs and who has not yet even reached the stage of private property, let along gone beyond it.

(For crude communism) the community is simply a community of labor and equality of wages, which are paid out by the communal capital, the community as universal capitalist. Both sides of the relation are raised to an unimaginary universality — labor as the condition in which everyone is placed and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the community.

In the relationship with woman, as the prey and handmaid of communal lust, is expressed the infinite degradation in which man exists for himself — for the secret of this relationship has its unambiguous, decisive, open and revealed expression in the relationship of man to woman and in the manner in which the direct, natural species-relationship is conceived. The immediate, natural, necessary relation of human being to human being is the relationship of man to woman. In this natural species-relationship, the relation of man to nature is immediately his relation to man, just as his relation to man is immediately his relation to nature, his own natural condition. Therefore, this relationship reveals in a sensuous form, reduced to an observable fact, the extent to which the human essence has become nature for man or nature has become the human essence for man. It is possible to judge from this relationship the entire level of development of mankind. It follows from the character of this relationship how far man as a species-being, as man, has become himself and grasped himself; the relation of man to woman is the most natural relation of human being to human being. It therefore demonstrates the extent to which man’s natural behavior has become human or the extent to which his human essence has become a natural essence for him, the extent to which his human nature has become nature for him. This relationship also demonstrates the extent to which man’s needs have become human needs, hence the extent to which the other, as a human being, has become a need for him, the extent to which in his most individual existence he is at the same time a communal being.

The first positive abolition of private property — crude communism — is therefore only a manifestation of the vileness of private property trying to establish itself as the positive community.

(2) Communism (a) still of a political nature, democratic or despotic; (b) with the abolition of the state, but still essentially incomplete and influenced by private property — i.e., by the estrangement of man. In both forms, communism already knows itself as the reintegration, or return, of man into himself, the supersession of man’s self-estrangement; but since it has not yet comprehended the positive essence of private property, or understood the human nature of need, it is still held captive and contaminated by private property. True, it has understood its concept, but not yet in essence.

(3) Communism is the positive supersession of private property as human self-estrangement, and hence the true appropriation of the human essence through and for man; it is the complete restoration of man to himself as a social — i.e., human — being, a restoration which has become conscious and which takes place within the entire wealth of previous periods of development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature, and between man and man, the true resolution of the conflict between existence and being, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be the solution.

The entire movement of history is therefore both the actual act of creation of communism — the birth of its empirical existence — and, for its thinking consciousness, the comprehended and known movement of its becoming; whereas the other communism, which is not yet fully developed, seeks in isolated historical forms opposed to private property a historical proof for itself, a proof drawn from what already exists, by wrenching isolated moments from their proper places in the process of development (a hobbyhorse Cabet, Villegardelle, etc., particularly like to ride) and advancing them as proofs of its historical pedigree. But all it succeeds in showing is that by far the greater part of this development contradicts its assertions and that if it did not once exist, then the very fact that it existed in the past refutes its claim to essential being [Wesen].

It is easy to see how necessary it is for the whole revolutionary movement to find both its empirical and its theoretical basis in the movement of private property or, to be exact, of the economy.

This material, immediately sensuous private property is the material, sensuous expression of estranged human life. Its movement — production and consumption — is the sensuous revelation of the movement of all previous production — i.e., the realization or reality of man. Religion, the family, the state, law, morality, science, art, etc., are only particular modes of production and therefore come under its general law. The positive supersession of private property, as the appropriation of human life, is therefore the positive supersession of all estrangement, and the return of man from religion, the family, the state, etc., to his human — i.e., social — existence. Religious estrangement as such takes place only in the sphere of consciousness, of man’s inner life, but economic estrangement is that of real life — its supersession therefore embraces both aspects. Clearly the nature of the movement in different countries initially depends on whether the actual and acknowledged life of the people has its being more in consciousness or in the external world, in ideal or in real life. Communism begins with atheism (Owen), but atheism is initially far from being communism, and is for the most part an abstraction.

The philanthropy of atheism is therefore at first nothing more than an abstract philosophical philanthropy, while that of communism is at once real and directly bent towards action.

We have seen how, assuming the positive supersession of private property, man produces man, himself and other men; how the object, which is the direct activity of his individuality, is at the same time his existence for other men, and their existence for him. Similarly, however, both the material of labor and man as subject are the starting-point as well as the outcome of the movement (and the historical necessity of private-property lies precisely in the fact that they must be this starting-point). So the social character is the general character of the whole movement; just as society itself produces man as man, so it is produced by him. Activity and consumption, both in their content and in their mode of existence, are social activity and social consumption. The human essence of nature exists only for social man; for only here does nature exist for him as a bond with other men, as his existence for others and their existence for him, as the vital element of human reality; only here does it exist as the basis of his own human existence. Only here has his natural existence become his human existence and nature become man for him. Society is therefore the perfected unity in essence of man with nature, the true resurrection of nature, the realized naturalism of man and the realized humanism of nature.

Social activity and social consumption by no means exist solely in the form of a directly communal activity and a directly communal consumption, even though communal activity and communal consumption — i.e., activity and consumption that express and confirm themselves directly in real association with other men — occur wherever that direct expression of sociality [Gesellschaftlichkeit] springs from the essential nature of the content of the activity and is appropriate to the nature of the consumption.

But even if I am active in the field of science, etc. — an activity which I am seldom able to perform in direct association with other men — I am still socially active because I am active as a man. It is not only the material of my activity — including even the language in which the thinker is active — which I receive as a social product. My own existence is social activity. Therefore what I create from myself I create for society, conscious of myself as a social being.

My universal consciousness is only the theoretical form of that whose living form is the real community, society, whereas at present universal consciousness is an abstraction from real life and as such in hostile opposition to it. Hence the activity of my universal consciousness — as activity — is my theoretical existence as a social being.

It is, above all, necessary to avoid once more establishing “society” as an abstraction over against the individual. The individual is the social being. His vital expression — even when it does not appear in the direct form of a communal expression, conceived in association with other men — is therefore an expression and confirmation of social life. Man’s individual and species-life are not two distinct things, however much — and this is necessarily so — the mode of existence of individual life is a more particular or a more general mode of the species-life, or species-life a more particular or more general individual life.

As species-consciousness man confirms his real social life and merely repeats in thought his actual existence; conversely, species-being confirms itself in species-consciousness and exists for itself in its universality, as a thinking being.

Man, however much he may therefore be a particular individual — and it is just this particularity which makes him an individual totality, the ideal totality, the subjective existence of thought and experienced society for itself; he also exists in reality as the contemplation and true enjoyment of social existence and as a totality of vital human expression.

It is true that thought and being are distinct, but at the same time they are in unity with one another.

Death appears as the harsh victory of the species over the particular individual, and seemingly contradicts their unity; but the particular individual is only a particular species-being, and, as such, mortal.

(4) Just as private property is only the sensuous expression of the fact that man becomes objective for himself and at the same time becomes an alien and inhuman object for himself, that his expression of life [Lebensausserung] is his alienation of life [Lebensentausserung], and that his realization is a loss of reality, an alien reality, so the positive supersession of private property — i.e., the sensuous appropriation of the human essence and human life, of objective man and of human works by and for man — should not be understood only in the sense of direct, one-sided consumption, of possession, of having. Man appropriates his integral essence in an integral way, as a total man. All his human elations to the world — seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking, contemplating, sensing, wanting, acting, loving — in short, all the organs of his individuality, like the organs which are directly communal in form, are in their objective approach or in their approach to the object the appropriation of that object. This appropriation of human reality, their approach to the object, is the confirmation of human reality. [3] It is human effectiveness and human suffering, for suffering, humanly conceived, is an enjoyment of the self for man.

Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital or when we directly possess, eat, drink, wear, inhabit it, etc., in short, when we use it. Although private property conceives all these immediate realizations of possession only as means of life; and the life they serve is the life of private property, labor, and capitalization.

Therefore all the physical and intellectual senses have been replaced by the simple estrangement of all these senses — the sense of having. So that it might give birth to its inner wealth, human nature had to be reduced to this absolute poverty. (On the category of having see Hess in Einundzwanzig Bogen.) [4]

The supersession of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and attributes; but it is this emancipation precisely because these senses and attributes have become human, subjectively as well as objectively. The eye has become a human eye, just as its object has become a social, human object, made by man for man. The senses have therefore become theoreticians in their immediate praxis. They relate to the thing for its own sake, but the thing itself is an objective human relation to itself and to man [5], and vice versa. Need or employment have therefore lost their egoistic nature, and nature has lost its mere utility in the sense that its use has become human use.

Similarly, senses and enjoyment of other men have become my own appropriation. Apart from these direct organs, social organs are therefore created in the form of society; for example, activity in direct association with others, etc., has become an organ of my life expressions and a mode of appropriation of human life.

Obviously the human eye takes in things in a different way from the crude non-human eye, the human ear in a different way from the crude ear, etc.

To sum up: it is only when man’s object becomes a human object or objective that man does not lose himself in that object. This is only possible when it becomes a social object for him and when he himself becomes a social being for himself, just as society becomes a being for him in this object.

On the one hand, therefore, it is only when objective reality universally becomes for man in society the reality of man’s essential powers, becomes human reality, and thus the reality of his own essential powers, that all objects become for him the objectification of himself, objects that confirm and realize his individuality, his objects — i.e., he himself becomes the object. The manner in which they become his depends on the nature of the object and the nature of the essential power that corresponds to it; for it is just the determinateness of this relation that constitutes the particular, real mode of affirmation. An object is different for the eye from what it is for the ear, and the eye’s object is different from the ear’s. The peculiarity of each essential power is precisely its peculiar essence, and thus also the peculiar mode of its objectification, of its objectively real, living being. Man is therefore affirmed in the objective world not only in thought but with all the senses.

On the other hand, let us look at the question in its subjective aspect: only music can awaken the musical sense in man and the most beautiful music has no sense for the unmusical ear, because my object can only be the confirmation of one of my essential powers — i.e., can only be for me insofar as my essential power exists for me as a subjective attribute (this is because the sense of an object for me extends only as far as my sense extends, only has sense for a sense that corresponds to that object). In the same way, and for the same reasons, the senses of social man are different from those of non-social man. Only through the objectively unfolded wealth of human nature can the wealth of subjective human sensitivity — a musical ear, an eye for the beauty of form, in short, senses capable of human gratification — be either cultivated or created. For not only the five senses, but also the so-called spiritual senses, the practical senses (will, love, etc.), in a word, the human sense, the humanity of the senses — all these come into being only through the existence of their objects, through humanized nature. The cultivation of the five senses is the work of all previous history. Sense which is a prisoner of crude practical need has only a restricted sense. For a man who is starving, the human form of food does not exist, only its abstract form exists; it could just as well be present in its crudest form, and it would be hard to say how this way of eating differs from that of animals. The man who is burdened with worries and needs has no sense for the finest of plays; the dealer in minerals sees only the commercial value, and not the beauty and peculiar nature of the minerals; he lacks a mineralogical sense; thus the objectification of the human essence, in a theoretical as well as a practical respect, is necessary both in order to make man’s senses human and to create an appropriate human sense for the whole of the wealth of humanity and of nature.

Just as in its initial stages society is presented with all the material for this cultural development through the movement of private property, and of its wealth and poverty — both material and intellectual wealth and poverty — so the society that is fully developed produces man in all the richness of his being, the rich man who is profoundly and abundantly endowed with all the senses, as its constant reality. It can be seen how subjectiveness and objectivism, spiritualism and materialism, activity and passivity [Leiden], lose their antithetical character, and hence their existence as such antithesis, only in the social condition; it can be seen how the resolution of the theoretical antitheses themselves is possible only in a practical way, only through the practical energy of man, and how their resolution is for that reason by no means only a problem of knowledge, but a real problem of life, a problem which philosophy was unable to solve precisely because it treated it as a purely theoretical problem.

It can be seen how the history of industry and the objective existence of industry as it has developed is the open book of the essential powers of man, man’s psychology present in tangible form; up to now this history has not been grasped in its connection with the nature of man, but only in an external utilitarian aspect, for man, moving in the realm of estrangement, was only capable of conceiving the general existence of man — religion, or history in its abstract and universal form of politics, art, literature, etc. — as the reality of man’s essential powers and as man’s species-activity. In everyday, material industry (which can just as easily be considered as a part of that general development as that general development itself can be considered as a particular part of industry, since all human activity up to now has been labor — i.e., industry, self-estranged activity) we find ourselves confronted with the objectified powers of the human essence, in the form of sensuous, alien, useful objects, in the form of estrangement. A psychology for which this book, the most tangible and accessible part of history, is closed, can never become a real science with a genuine content. What indeed should we think of a science which primly abstracts from this large area of human labor, and fails to sense its own inadequacy, even though such an extended wealth of human activity says nothing more to it perhaps than what can be said in one word — “need,” “common need”?

The natural sciences have been prolifically active and have gathered together an ever growing mass of material. But philosophy has remained just as alien to them as they have remained alien to philosophy. Their momentary union was only a fantastic illusion. The will was there, but not the means. Even historiography only incidentally takes account of natural science, which it sees as contributing to enlightenment, utility and a few great discoveries. But natural science has intervened in and transformed human life all the more practically through industry and has prepared the conditions for human emancipation, however much its immediate effect was to complete the process was to complete the process of dehumanization. Industry is the real historical relationship of nature, and hence of natural science, to man. If it is then conceived as the exoteric revelation of man’s essential powers, the human essence of nature or the natural essence of man can also be understood. Hence natural science will lose its abstractly material, or rather idealist, orientation and become the basis of a human science, just as it has already become — though in an estranged form — the basis of actual human life. The idea of one basis for life and another for science is from the very outset a lie. Nature as it comes into being in human history — in the act of creation of human society — is the true nature of man; hence nature as it comes into being through industry, though in an estranged form, is true anthropological nature.

Sense perception (see Feuerbach) must be the basis of all science. Only when science starts out from sense perception in the dual form of sensuous consciousness and sensuous need — i.e., only when science starts out from nature — is it real science. The whole of history is a preparation, a development, for “man” to become the object of sensuous consciousness and for the needs of “man as man” to become [sensuous] needs. History itself is a real part of natural history and of nature’s becoming man. Natural science will, in time, subsume the science of man, just as the science of man will subsume natural science: there will be one science.

Man is the immediate object of natural science; for immediate sensuous nature for man is, immediately, human sense perception (an identical expression) in the form of the other man who is present in his sensuous immediacy for him. His own sense perception only exists as human sense perception for himself through the other man. But nature is the immediate object of the science of man. Man’s first object — man — is nature, sense perception; and the particular sensuous human powers, since they can find objective realization only in natural objects, can find self-knowledge only in the science of nature in general. The element of thought itself, the element of the vital expression of thought — language — is sensuous nature. The social reality of nature and human natural science or the natural science of man are identical expressions.

It can be seen how the rich man and the wealth of human need take the place of the wealth and poverty of political economy. The rich man is simultaneously the man in need of totality of vital human expression; he is the man in whom his own realization exists as inner necessity, as need. Given socialism, not only man’s wealth but also his poverty acquire a human and hence a social significance. Poverty is the passive bond which makes man experience his greatest wealth — the other man — as need. The domination of the objective essences within me, the sensuous outburst of my essential activity, is passion, which here becomes the activity of my being.

(5) A being sees himself as independent only when he stands on his own feet, and he only stands on his own feet when he owes this existence to himself. A man who lives by the grace of another regards himself as a dependent being. But I live completely by the grace of another if I owe him not only the maintenance of my life, but also its creation, if he is the source of my life. My life is necessarily grounded outside itself if it is not my own creation. The creation is therefore an idea which is very hard to exorcize from the popular consciousness. This consciousness is incapable of comprehending the self-mediated being [Durchsichselbstsein] of nature and of man, since such a being contradicts all the palpable evidence of practical life.

The creation of the Earth receives a heavy blow from the science of geogeny — i.e., the science which depicts the formation of the Earth, its coming to be, as a process of self-generation. Generatio aequivoca [spontaneous generation] is the only practical refutation of the theory of creation.

Now, it is easy to say to a particular individual what Aristotle said: You were begotten by your father and your mother, which means that in you the mating of two human beings, a human species-act, produced another human being. Clearly, then, man also owes his existence to man in a physical sense. Therefore, you should not only keep sight of the one aspect, the infinite progression which leads you on to the question: “Who begot my father, his grandfather, etc.?” You should also keep in mind the circular movement sensuously perceptible in that progression whereby man reproduces himself in the act of begetting and thus always remains the subject. But you will reply: I grant you this circular movement, but you must also grant me the right to progress back to the question: Your question is itself a product of abstraction. Ask yourself how you arrived at that question. Ask yourself whether your question does not arise from a standpoint to which I cannot reply because it is a perverse one. Ask yourself whether that progression exists as such for rational thought. If you ask about the creation of nature and of man, then you are abstracting from nature and from man. You assume them as non-existent and want me to prove to you that they exist. My answer is: Give up your abstraction and you will then give up your question. But if you want to hold on to your abstraction, then do so consistently, and if you assume the non-existence of man and nature, then assume also your own non-existence, for you are also nature and man. Do not think and do not ask me questions, for as soon as you think and ask questions, your abstraction from the existence of nature and man has no meaning. Or are you such an egoist that you assume everything as non-existence and still want to exist yourself?

You can reply: I do not want to assume the nothingness of nature, etc. I am only asking how it arose, just as I might ask the anatomist about the formation of bones, etc.

But since for socialist man the whole of what is called world history is nothing more than the creation of man through human labor, and the development of nature for man, he therefore has palpable and incontrovertible proof of his self-mediated birth, of his process of emergence. Since the essentiality [Wesenhaftigkeit] of man and nature, a man as the existence of nature for man and nature as the existence of man for man, has become practically and sensuously perceptible, the question of an alien being, being above nature and man — a question which implies an admission of the unreality of nature and of man — has become impossible in practice. Atheism, which is a denial of this unreality, no longer has any meaning, for atheism is a negation of God, through which negation it asserts the existence of man. But socialism as such no longer needs such mediation. Its starting point is the theoretically and practically sensuous consciousness of man and of nature as essential beings. It is the positive self-consciousness of man, no longer mediated through the abolition of religion, just as real life is positive reality no longer mediated through the abolition of private property, through communism. Communism is the act of positing as the negation of the negation, and is therefore a real phase, necessary for the next period of historical development, in the emancipation and recovery of mankind. Communism is the necessary form and the dynamic principle of the immediate future, but communism is not as such the goal of human development — the form of human society.

Division of Labor

We have seen what significance the wealth of human needs has, on the presupposition of socialism, and consequently what significance a new mode of production and a new object of production have. A fresh confirmation of human powers and a fresh enrichment of human nature. Under the system of private property their significance is reversed. Each person speculates on creating a new need in the other, with the aim of forcing him to make a new sacrifice, placing him in a new dependence and seducing him into a new kind of enjoyment and hence into economic ruin. Each attempts to establish over the other an alien power, in the hope of thereby achieving satisfaction of his own selfish needs. With the mass of objects grows the realm of alien powers to which man is subjected, and each new product is a new potentiality of mutual fraud and mutual pillage. Man becomes ever poorer as a man, and needs ever more money if he is to achieve mastery over the hostile being. The power of his money falls in inverse proportion to the volume of production, — i.e., his need grows as the power of money increases.

The need for money is for that reason the real need created by the modern economic system, and the only need it creates. The quantity of money becomes more and more its sole important property. Just as it reduces everything to its own form of abstraction, so it reduces itself in the course of its own movement to something quantitative. Lack of moderation and intemperance become its true standard.

Subjectively this is manifested partly in the fact that the expansion of production and needs becomes the inventive and ever calculating slave of inhuman, refined, unnatural and imaginary appetites — for private property does not know how to transform crude need into human need. Its idealism is fantasy, caprice, and infatuation. No eunuch flatters his despot more basely, or uses more infamous means to revive his flagging capacity for pleasure, in order to win a surreptitious favor for himself, than does the eunuch of industry, the manufacturer, in order to sneak himself a silver penny or two, or coax the gold from the pocket of his dearly beloved neighbor. Every product is a bait with which to entice the essence of the other, his money. Every real or potential need is a weakness which will tempt the fly onto the lime-twig. Universal exploitation of communal human nature. Just as each one of man’s inadequacies is a bond with heaven, a way into his heart for the priest, so every need is an opportunity for stepping up to one’s neighbor in sham friendship and saying to him: “Dear friend, I can give you want you need, but you know the terms. You know which ink you must use in signing yourself over to me. I shall cheat you while I provide your pleasure.” He places himself at the disposal of his neighbor’s most depraved fancies, panders to his needs, excites unhealthy appetites in him, and pounces on every weakness, so that he can then demand the money for his labor of love.

This estrangement partly manifests itself in the fact that the rent of needs and of the means of fulfilling them gives rise to a bestial degeneration and a complete, crude and abstract simplicity of need; or rather, that it merely reproduces itself in its opposite sense. Even the need for fresh air ceases to be a need for the worker. Man reverts once more to living in a cave, but the cave is now polluted by the mephitic and pestilential breath of civilization. Moreover, the worker has no more than a precarious right to live in it, for it is for him an alien power that can be daily withdrawn and from which, should he fail to pay, he can be evicted at any time. He actually has to pay for this mortuary. A dwelling in the light, which Prometheus describes in Aeschylus as one of the great gifts through which he transformed savages into men, ceases to exist for the worker. Light, air, etc. — the simplest animal cleanliness — cease to be a need for man. Dirt — this pollution and putrefaction of man, the sewage (this word is to be understood in its literal sense) of civilization — becomes an element of life for him. Universal unnatural neglect, putrefied nature, becomes an element of life for him. None of these senses exist any longer, either in their human form or in their inhuman form — i.e., not even in their animal form. The crudest modes (and instruments) of human labor reappear; for example, the tread-mill used by Roman slaves has become the mode of production and mode of existence of many English workers. It is not only human needs which man lacks — even his animal needs cease to exist. The Irishman has only one need left — the need to eat, to eat potatoes, and, more precisely, to eat rotten potatoes, the worst kind of potatoes. But England and France already have a little Ireland in each of their industrial cities. The savage and the animal at least have the need to hunt, to move about, etc., the need of companionship. The simplification of machinery and of labor is used to make workers out of human beings who are still growing, who are completely immature, out of children, while the worker himself becomes a neglected child. The machine accommodates itself to man’s weakness, in order to turn the weak man into a machine.

The fact that the multiplication of needs and of the means of fulfilling them gives rise to a lack of needs and of means is proved by the political economist (and by the capitalist — we invariably mean empirical businessmen when we refer to political economists, who are the scientific exposition and existence of the former) in the following ways:

(1) By reducing the worker’s needs to the paltriest minimum necessary to maintain his physical existence and by reducing his activity to the most abstract mechanical movement. In so doing, the political economist declares that man has no other needs, either in the sphere of activity or in that of consumption. For even this life he calls human life and human existence.

(2) By taking as his standard — his universal standard, in the sense that it applies to the mass of men — the worst possible state of privation which life (existence) can know. He turns the worker into a being with neither needs nor senses, and turns the worker’s activity into a pure abstraction from all activity. Hence any luxury that the worker might enjoy is reprehensible, and anything that goes beyond the most abstract need — either in the form of passive enjoyment or active expression — appears to him as a luxury. Political economy, this science of wealth, is therefore at the same time the science of denial, of starvation, of saving, and it actually goes so far as to save man the need for fresh air or physical exercise. This science of the marvels of industry is at the same time the science of asceticism, and its true ideal is the ascetic but rapacious skinflint, and the ascetic but productive slave. Its moral ideal is the worker who puts a part of his wages into savings, and it has even discovered a servile art which can dignify this charming little notion and present a sentimental version of it on the stage. It is therefore — for all its worldly and debauched appearance — a truly moral science, the most moral science of all. Self-denial, the denial of life and of all human needs, is its principal doctrine. The less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theatre, go dancing, go drinking, think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc.; the more you save — the greater will become that treasure which neither moths nor maggots can consume: your capital. The less you are, the less you give expression to your life, the more you have, the greater is your alienated life and the more you store up of your estranged life. Everything which the political economist takes from you in terms of life and humanity, he restores to you in the form of money and wealth, and everything which you are unable to do, your money can do for you: it can eat, drink, go dancing, go to the theatre, it can appropriate art, learning, historical curiosities, political power, it can travel, it is capable of doing all those thing for you; it can buy everything: it is genuine wealth, genuine ability. But for all that, it only likes to create itself, to buy itself, for after all everything else is its servant. And when I have the master I have the servant, and I have no need of his servant. So all passions and all activity are lost in greed. The worker is only permitted to have enough for him to live, and he is only permitted to live in order to have.

It is true that a controversy has arisen in the field of political economy. One school (Lauderdale, Malthus, etc.) advocates luxury and execrates thrift. The other (Say, Ricardo, etc.) advocates thrift and execrates luxury. But the former admits that it wants luxury in order to produce labor — i.e., absolute thrift; and the latter admits that it advocates thrift in order to produce wealth — i.e., luxury. The former has the romantic notion that greed alone should not regulate the consumption of the rich, and it contradicts its own laws when it forwards the idea of prodigality as a direct means of enrichment. The other side then advances earnest and detailed arguments to show that through prodigality I diminish rather than increase my possessions; but its supporters hypocritically refuse to admit that production is regulated by caprice and luxury; they forget the “refined needs” and forget that without consumption there can be no production; they forget that, through competition, production becomes more extensive and luxurious; they forget that it is use which determines the value of a thing, and that it is fashion which determines use; they want only “useful things” to be produced, but they forget that the production of too many useful things produces too many useless people. Both sides forget that prodigality and thrift, luxury and privation, wealth and poverty are equal.

And you must not only be parsimonious in gratifying your immediate senses, such as eating, etc. You must also be chary of participating in affairs of general interest, showing sympathy and trust, etc., if you want to be economical and if you want to avoid being ruined by illusions.

You must make everything which is yours venal — i.e., useful. I might ask the political economist: am I obeying economic laws if I make money by prostituting my body to the lust of another (in France, the factory workers call the prostitution of their wives and daughters the nth working hour, which is literally true), or if I sell my friend to the Moroccans? (And the direct sale of men in the form of trade in conscripts, etc., occurs in all civilized countries). His answer will be: your acts do not contravene my laws, but you find out what Cousin Morality and Cousin Religion have to say about it; the morality and religion of my political economy have no objection to make, but… But who should I believe, then? Political economy or morality? The morality of political economy is gain, labor and thrift, sobriety — and yet political economy promises to satisfy my needs. The political economy of morality is the wealth of a good conscience, of virtue, etc. — but how can I be virtuous if I do not exist? And how can I have a good conscience if I am not conscious of anything? It is inherent in the very nature of estrangement that each sphere imposes upon me a different and contrary standard; one standard for morality, one for political economy, and so on. This is because each of them is a particular estrangement of man and each is centred upon one particular area of estranged essential activity: each is related in an estranged way to the other… Thus M. Michael Chevalier accuses Ricardo of abstracting from morality. But Ricardo allows political economy to speak its own language. If this language is not that of morality, it is not the fault of Ricardo. M. Chevalier abstracts from political economy insofar as he moralizes, but he really and necessarily abstracts from morality insofar as he deals with political economy. The relationship of political economy to morality is either an arbitrary and contingent one which is neither founded nor scientific, a simulacrum, or it is essential and can only be the relationship of economic laws to morality. If such a relationship does not exist, or if the opposite is rather the case, can Ricardo do anything about it? Moreover, the opposition between political economy and morality is only an apparent one. It is both an opposition and not an opposition. Political economy merely gives expression to moral laws in its own way.

Absence of needs as the principle of political economy is most in its theory of population: “There are too many people”. Even the existence of man is a pure luxury, and if the worker is “moral” he will be economical in procreation. (Mill suggests public commendation of those who show themselves temperate in sexual matters and public rebukes of those who sin against this barrenness of marriage… Is this not the morality, the doctrine, of asceticism?) The production of people appears as a public disaster.

The meaning which production has for the wealthy is revealed in the meaning which it has for the poor. At the top, it always manifests itself in a refined, concealed, and ambiguous way — as an appearance. At the bottom, it manifests itself in a crude, straightforward, and overt way — as a reality. The crude need of the worker is a much greater source of profit than the refined need of the rich. The basement dwellings in London bring in more for the landlords than the palaces — i.e., they constitute a greater wealth for him and, from an economic point of view, a greater social wealth.

Just as industry speculates on the refinement of needs, so too it speculated on their crudity. But the crudity on which it speculates is artificially produced, and its true manner of enjoyment is therefore self-stupefaction, this apparent satisfaction of need, this civilization within the crude barbarism of need. The English ginshops are, therefore, the symbolic representation of private property. Their luxury demonstrated to man the true relation of industrial luxury and wealth. For that reason, they are rightly the only Sunday enjoyment of the English people, and are at least treated mildly by the English police.

We have already seen how the political economist establishes the unity of labor and capital in a number of different ways:

  1. capital is accumulated labor;
  2. the purpose of capital within production — partly the reproduction of capital with profit, partly capital as raw material (material of labor) and partly as itself a working instrument (the machine is capital directly identified with labor) — is productive labor;
  3. the worker is a piece of capital;
  4. wages belong to the costs of capital;
  5. for the worker, labor is the reproduction of his life capital;
  6. for the capitalist, it is a factor in the activity of his capital. Finally,
  7. the political economist postulates the original unity of capital and labor as the unity of capitalist and worker, which he sees as the original state of bliss. The fact that these two elements leap at each other’s throats in the form of two persons is a contingent event for the political economist, and hence only to be explained by external factors (see Mill).

Those nations which are still dazzled by the sensuous glitter of precious metals and, therefore make a fetish of metal money, are not yet fully developed money nations. Compare England and France. The extent to which the solution of theoretical problems is a function of practice and is mediated through practice, and the extent to which true practice is the condition of a real and positive theory is shown, for example, in the case of fetish-worship. The sense perception of a fetish-worshipper is different from that of a Greek because his sensuous existence is different. The abstract hostility between sense and intellect is inevitable so long as the human sense [Sinn] for nature, the human significance [Sinn] of nature, and, hence, the natural sense of man, has not yet been produced by man’s own labor.

Equality is nothing but a translation into French — i.e., into political form — of the German “Ich-Ich”. Equality as the basis of communism is its political foundation. It is the same as when the German founds it on the fact that he sees man as universal self-consciousness. It goes without saying that the supersession of estrangement always emanates from the form of estrangement which is the dominant power — in Germany, self-consciousness; in France, equality, because politics; in England, real, material, practical need, which only measures itself against itself. It is from this point of view that Proudhon should be criticized and acknowledged.

If we characterize communism itself — which because of its character as negation of the negation, as appropriation of the human essence which is mediated with itself through the negation of private property, is not yet the true, self-generating position [Position], but one generated by private property…

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… the real estrangement of human life remains and is all the greater the more one is conscious of it as such, it can only be attained once communism is established.

In order to supersede the idea of private property, the idea of communism is enough. In order to supersede private property as it actually exists, real communist activity is necessary. History will give rise to such activity, and the movement which we already know in thought to be a self-superseding movement will in reality undergo a very difficult and protracted process. But we must look upon it as a real advance that we have gained, at the outset, an awareness of the limits as well as the goal of this historical movement and are in a position to see beyond it.

When communist workmen gather together, their immediate aim is instruction, propaganda, etc. But at the same time, they acquire a new need — the need for society — and what appears as a means has become an end. This practical development can be most strikingly observed in the gatherings of French socialist workers. Smoking, eating, and drinking, etc., are no longer means of creating links between people. Company, association, conversation, which in turn has society as its goal, is enough for them. The brotherhood of man is not a hollow phrase, it is a reality, and the nobility of man shines forth upon us from their work-worn figures.

When political economy maintains that supply and demand always balance each other, it immediately forgets its own assertion that the supply of people (the theory of population) always exceeds the demand and that therefore the disproportion between supply and demand finds its most striking expression in what is the essential goal of production — the existence of man.

The extent to which money, which appears to be a means, is the true power and the sole end — the extent to which in general the means which gives me being and which appropriates for me alien and objective being, is an end in itself… is apparent from the fact that landed property, where the soil is the source of life, and the horse and the sword, where they are the true means of life, are also recognized as the actual political powers. In the Middle Ages, an Estate becomes emancipated as soon as it is allowed to bear a sword. Among nomadic peoples, it is the horse which makes one into a free man and a participant in the life of the community.

We said above that man is regressing to the cave dwelling, etc. — but in an estranged, repugnant form. The savage in his cave — an element of nature which is freely available for his use and shelter — does not experience his environment as alien; he feels just as much at home as a fish in water. But the poor man’s basement dwelling is an uncongenial element, an “alien, restrictive power which only surrenders itself to him at the expense of his sweat and blood”. He cannot look upon it as his home, as somewhere he can call his own. Instead, he finds himself in someone else’s house, in an alien house, whose owner lies in wait for him every day, and evicts him if he fails to pay the rent. At the same time, he is aware of the difference in quality between his own dwelling and those other-worldly human dwellings which exist in the heaven of wealth.

Estrangement appears not only in the fact that the means of my life belong to another and that my desire is the inaccessible possession of another, but also in the fact that all things are other than themselves, that my activity is other than itself, and that finally — and this goes for the capitalists too — an inhuman power rules over everything.

There is one form of inactive and extravagant wealth, given over exclusively to pleasure, the owner of which is active as a merely ephemeral individual, rushing about erratically. He looks upon the slave labor of others, their human sweat and blood, as they prey of his desires, and regards man in general — including himself — as a futile and sacrificial being. He arrogantly looks down upon mankind, dissipating what would suffice to keep alive a hundred human beings, and propagates the infamous illusion that his unbridled extravagance and ceaseless, unproductive consumption is a condition of the labor, and, hence, subsistence of the others. For him, the realization of man’s essential powers is simply the realization of his own disorderly existence, his whims, and his capricious and bizarre notions. But this wealth, which regards wealth as a mere means, worthy only of destruction, and which is therefore both slave and master, both generous and mean, capricious, conceited, presumptuous, refined, cultured, and ingenious — this wealth has not yet experienced wealth as an entirely alien power over itself; it sees in wealth nothing more than its own power, the final aim of which is not wealth but consumption…

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…and the glittering illusion about the nature of wealth — an illusion which derives from its sensuous appearance — is confronted by the working, sober, prosaic, economical industrialist who is enlightened about the nature of wealth and who not only provides a wider range of opportunities for the other’s self-indulgence and flatters him through his products — for his products are so many base compliments to the appetites of the spendthrift — but also manages to appropriate for himself in the only useful way the other’s dwindling power. So if industrial wealth at first appears to be the product of extravagant, fantastic wealth, in its inherent course of development it actively supplants the latter. For the fall in the interest on money is a necessary consequence and result of industrial development. Therefore, the means of the extravagant rentier diminish daily in inverse proportion to the growing possibilities and temptations of pleasure. He must, therefore, either consume his capital himself, and in so doing bring about his own ruin, or become an industrial capitalist.... On the other hand, it is true that there is a direct and constant rise in the rent of land as a result of industrial development, but as we have already seen there inevitably comes a time when landed property, like every other kind of property, falls into the category of capital which reproduces itself with profit — and this is a result of the same industrial development. Therefore, even the extravagant landlord is forced either to consume his capital — i.e., ruin himself — or become the tenant farmer of his own property — an agricultural industrialist.

The decline in the rate of interest — which Proudhon regards as the abolition of capital and as a tendency towards the socialization of capital — is therefore rather a direct symptom of the complete victory of working capital over prodigal wealth — i.e., the transformation of all private property into industrial capital. It is the complete victory of private property over all those of its qualities which are still apparently human and the total subjugation of the property owner to the essence of private property: labor. To be sure, the industrial capitalist also seeks enjoyment. He does not by any means regress to an unnatural simplicity of need, but his enjoyment is only incidental, a means of relaxation; it is subordinated to production, it is a calculated and even an economical form of pleasure, for it is charged as an expense of capital; the sum dissipated may therefore not be in excess of what can be replaced by the reproduction of capital with profit. Enjoyment is, therefore, subsumed under capital, and the pleasure-seeking individual subsumed under the capitalizing individual, whereas earlier the contrary was the case. The decline in the rate of interest is therefore a symptom of the abolition of capital only insofar as it is a symptom of the growing domination of capital, of that growing estrangement which is hastening towards its own abolition. This is the only way in which that which exists affirms its opposite.

The wrangle among political economists about luxury and saving is therefore merely a wrangle between that section of political economy which has become aware of the nature of wealth and that section which is still imprisoned within romantic and anti-industrial memories. But neither of them knows how to express the object of the controversy in simple terms, and neither of them is therefore in a position to clinch the argument.

Furthermore, the rent of land qua rent of land has been abolished, for the argument of the Physiocrats, who say that the landowner is the only true producer, has been demolished by the political economists, who show that the landowner as such is the only completely unproductive rentier. Agriculture is a matter for the capitalist, who invests his capital in this way when he can expect to make a normal profit. The argument of the Physiocrats that landed property, as the only productive property, should alone pay state taxes and should therefore alone give its consent to them and take part in state affairs, is turned into the opposite argument that the tax on rent of land is the only tax on unproductive income and hence the only tax which does not harm national production. Naturally, it follows from this argument that the landowner can no longer derive political privileges from his position as principal tax-payer.

Everything which Proudhon interprets as the growing power of labor as against capital is simply the growing power of labor in the form of capital, industrial capital, as against capital which is not consumed as capital — i.e, industrially. And this development is on its way to victory — i.e., the victory of industrial capital.

Clearly, then, it is only when labor is grasped as the essence of private property that the development of the economy as such can be analyzed in its real determinateness.

Society, as it appears to the political economist, is civil society, in which each individual is a totality of needs and only exists for the other as the other exists for him — insofar as each becomes a means for the other. The political economist, like politics in its rights of man, reduces everything to man — i.e., to the individual, whom he divests of all his determinateness in order to classify him as a capitalist or a worker.

The division of labor is the economic expression of the social nature of labor within estrangement. Or, rather, since labor is only an expression of human activity within alienation, an expression of life as alienation of life, the division of labor is nothing more than the estranged, alienated positing of human activity as a real species-activity or as activity of man as a species-being.

Political economists are very unclear and self-contradictory about the essence of the division of labor, which was naturally seen as one of the main driving forces in the production of wealth as soon as labor was seen to be the essence of private property. That is to say, they are very unclear about human activity as species activity in this its estranged and alienated form.

Adam Smith:

The division of labor… is not originally the effect of any human wisdom.... It is the necessary, though very slow and gradual consequence of the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another. Whether this propensity be one of those original principles of human nature… or whether, as seems more probably, it be the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and of speech it belongs not to our present subject to inquire. It is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals.... In almost every other race of animals the individual when it is grown up to maturity is entirely independent.... But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favor, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them.... We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

As it is by treaty, by barter, and by purchase that we obtain from one another the greater part of those mutual good offices that we stand in need of, so it is this same trucking disposition which originally gives occasion to the division of labor. In a tribe of hunters or shepherds a particular person makes bows and arrows, for example, with more readiness and dexterity than any other. He frequently exchanges them for cattle or for venison with his companions; and he finds at last that he can in this manner get more cattle and venison than if he himself went to the field to catch them. From a regard to his own interest, therefore, the making of bows and arrows grows to be his chief business…

The difference of natural talents in different men… is not… so much the cause as the effect of the division of labor.... Without the disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, every man must have procured to himself every necessary and conveniency of life which he wanted. All must have had… the same work to do, and there could have been no such difference of employment as could alone give occasion to any great difference of talent.

As it is this disposition which forms that difference of talents… among men, so it is this same disposition which renders that difference useful. Many tribes of animals… of the same species derive from nature a much more remarkable distinction of genius than what, antecedent to custom and education, appears to take place among men. By nature a philosopher is not in genius and in disposition half so different from a street-porter, as a mastiff is from a greyhound, or a greyhound from a spaniel, or this last from a shepherd’s dog. Those different tribes of animals, however, though all of the same species, are of scarce any use to one another. The strength of the mastiff is not, in the least, supported for example by the swiftness of the greyhound.... The effects of those geniuses and talents, for want of the power or disposition to barter and exchange, cannot be brought into a common stock, and do not in the least contribute to the better accommodation and conveniency of the species. Each animal is still obliged to support and defend itself, separately and independently, and derives no sort of advantage from that variety of talents with which nature has distinguished its fellows. Among men, on the contrary, the most dissimilar geniuses are of use to one another; the different produces of their respective talents, by the general disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, bring brought, as it were, into a common stock, where every man may purchase whatever part of the produce of other men’s talents he has occasion for.

As it is the power of exchanging that gives occasion to the division of labor, so the extent of this division must always be limited by the extent of that power, or in other words, by the extent of the market. When the market is very small, no person can have any encouragement to dedicate himself entirely to one employment, for want of the power to exchange all that surplus part of the produce of his own labor, which is over and above his own consumption, for such parts of the produce of other men’s labor as he has occasion for.

In an advanced state of society “every man thus lives by exchanging, or becomes in some measure a merchant, and the society itself grows to be what is properly a commercial society.” (See Destutt de Tracy, Elémens d’idéologie, Paris 1826, pp. 68 and 78: “Society is a series of reciprocal exchanges; commerce contains the whole essence of society.”) …The accumulation of capitals mounts with the division of labour, and vice versa. [6]

J. B. Say:

If every family produced all that it consumed, society could keep going even if no exchange of any sort took place… Although it is not fundamental, exchange is indispensable in our advanced state of society… The division of labor is a skilful application of the powers of man; it increases society’s production — its power and its pleasures — but it robs the individual, reduces the capacity of each person taken individually. Production cannot take place without exchange. [7]


The powers inherent in man are his intelligence and his physical capacity for work. Those which spring from the condition of society consist of the capacity to divide labor and to distribute different tasks among the different people… and the power to exchange mutual services and the products which constitute these means… The motive which induces a man to give his services to another is self-interest — he demands a recompense for the services rendered. The right of exclusive private property is indispensable to the establishment of exchange among men. Exchange and division of labor mutually condition each other. [8]

Mill presents developed exchange — trade — as a consequence of the division of labor:

… the agency of man can be traced to very simple elements. He can, in fact, do nothing more than produce motion. He can move things towards one another; and he can separate them from one another; the properties of matter perform all the rest.... In the employment of labor and machinery, it is often found that the effects can be increased by skilful distribution, by separating all those operations which have any tendency to impede one another, by bringing together all those operations which can be made in any way to aid one another. As men in general cannot perform many different operations with the same quickness and dexterity with which they can, by practice, learn to perform a few, it is always an advantage to limit as much as possible the number of operations imposed upon each. For dividing labor, and distributing the power of men and machinery, to the greatest advantage, it is in most cases necessary to operate upon large scale; in other words, to produce the commodities in great masses. It is this advantage which gives existence to the great manufactories; a few of which, placed in the most convenient situations, sometimes supply not one country, but many countries, with as much as they desire of the commodity produced. [9]

But all the modern political economists agree that division of labor and volume of production, division of labor and accumulation of capital, are mutually determining, and that only liberated private property, left to itself, is capable of producing the most effective and comprehensive division of labor.

Adam Smith’s argument can be summed up as follows: the division of labor gives labor an infinite capacity to produce. It has its basis in the propensity to exchange and barter, a specifically human propensity which is probably not fortuitous but determined by the use of reason and of language. The motive of those engaged in exchange is not humanity but egoism. The diversity of human talents is more the effect than the cause of the division of labor — i.e., of exchange. Moreover, it is only on account of the latter that this diversity is useful. The particular qualities of the different races within a species of animal are by nature more marked than the difference between human aptitudes and activities. But since animals are not able to exchange, the diversity of qualities in animals of the same species but of different races does not benefit any individual animal. Animals are unable to combine the different qualities of their species; they are incapable of contributing anything to the common good and the common comfort of their species. This is not the case with men, whose most disparate talents and modes of activity are of benefit to each other, because they can gather together their different products in a common reserve from which each can make his purchases. Just as the division of labor stems from the propensity to exchange, so it grows and is limited by the extent of exchange, of the market. In developed conditions each man is a merchant and society is a trading association.

Say regards exchange as fortuitous and not basic. Society could exist without it. It becomes indispensable in an advanced state of society. Yet production cannot take place without it. The division of labor is a convenient, useful means, a skilful application of human powers for social wealth, but it is a diminution of the capacity of each man taken individually. This last remark is an advance of Say’s part.

Skarbek distinguishes the individual powers inherent in man — intelligence and physical capacity for work — from those powers which are derived from society — exchange and division of labor, which mutually condition each other. But the necessary precondition of exchange is private property. Skarbek is here giving expression in objective form to what Smith, Say, Ricardo, etc., say when they designate egoism and private self-interest as the basis of exchange and haggling as the essential and adequate form of exchange.

Mill presents trade as a consequence of the division of labor. For him, human activity is reduced to mechanical movement. The division of labor and the use of machinery promote abundance of production. Each person must be allocated the smallest possible sphere of operations. The division of labor and the use of machinery, for their part, require the production of wealth en masse, which means a concentration of production. This is the reason for the big factories.

The consideration of the division of labor and exchange is of the highest interest, because they are the perceptibly alienated expressions of human activity and essential powers as species-activity and species-power.

To say that the division of labor and exchange are based on private property is simply to say that labor is the essence of private property — an assertion that the political economist is incapable of proving and which we intend to prove for him. It is precisely in the fact that the division of labor and exchange are configurations of private property that we find the proof, both that human life needed private property for its realization and that it now needs the abolition of private property.

The division of labor and exchange are the two phenomena on whose account the political economist brags about the social nature of his science, while in the same breath he unconsciously expresses the contradiction which underlies his science — the establishment of society through unsocial, particular interests.

The factors we have to consider are these: the propensity to exchange, which is grounded in egoism, is regarded as the cause or the reciprocal effect of the division of labor. Say regards exchange as not fundamental to the nature of society. Wealth and production are explained by the division of labor and exchange. The impoverishment and denaturing [Entwesung] of individual activity by the division of labor are admitted. Exchange and division of labor are acknowledged as producers of the great diversity of human talents, a diversity which becomes useful because of exchange. Skarbek divides man’s powers of production or essential powers into two parts:

  1. those which are individual and inherent in him, his intelligence and his special disposition or capacity for work; and
  2. those which are derived not from the real individual but from society, the division of labor and exchange.

Furthermore, the division of labor is limited by the market. Human labor is simply mechanical movement; most of the work is done by the material properties of the objects. Each individual must be allocated the smallest number of operations possible. Fragmentation of labor and concentration of capital; the nothingness of individual production and the production of wealth en masse. Meaning of free private property in the division of labor.


If man’s feelings, passions, etc., are not merely anthropological characteristics in the narrower sense, but are truly ontological affirmations of his essence (nature), and if they only really affirm themselves insofar as their object exists sensuously for them, then it is clear:

  1. That their mode of affirmation is by no means one and the same, but rather that the different modes of affirmation constitute the particular character of their existence, of their life. The mode in which the object exists for them is the characteristic mode of their gratification.
  2. Where the sensuous affirmation is a direct annulment [Aufheben] of the object in its independent form (eating, drinking, fashioning of objects, etc.), this is the affirmation of the object.
  3. Insofar as man, and hence also his feelings, etc., are human, the affirmation of the object by another is also his own gratification.
  4. Only through developed industry — i.e., through mediation of private property, does the ontological essence of human passion come into being, both in its totality and in its humanity; the science of man is, therefore, itself a product of the self-formation of man through practical activity.
  5. The meaning of private property, freed from its estrangement, is the existence of essential objects for man, both as objects of enjoyment and of activity.

Money, inasmuch as it possess the property of being able to buy everything and appropriate all objects, is the object most worth possessing. The universality of this property is the basis of money’s omnipotence; hence, it is regarded as an omnipotent being… Money is the pimp between need and object, between life and man’s means of life. But that which mediates my life also mediates the existence of other men for me. It is for me the other person.

What, man! confound it, hands and feet
And head and backside, all are yours!
And what we take while life is sweet,
Is that to be declared not ours?

Six stallions, say, I can afford,
Is not their strength my property?
I tear along, a sporting lord,
As if their legs belonged to me.

Goethe: Faust (Mephistopheles) [10]

Shakespeare, in Timon of Athens:

Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold! No, gods,
I am no idle votarist; roots, you clear heavens!
Thus much of this will make black, white; foul, fair;
Wrong, right; base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant.
… Why, this
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides;
Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads:
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions; bless th’accurst;
Make the hoar leprosy adored; place thieves,
And give them title, knee, and approbation,
With senators on the bench: this is it
That makes the wappen’d widow wed again;
She whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices
To th’April day again. Come, damned earth,
Thou common whore of mankind, that putt’st odds
Among the rout of nations, I will make thee
Do thy right nature. [11]

And, later on:

O thou sweet king-killer, and dear divorce
‘Twixt natural son and sire! Thou bright defiler
Of Hymen’s purest bed! Thou valiant Mars!
Thou ever young, fresh, loved and delicate wooer,
Whose blush doth thaw the consecrated snow
That lies on Dian’s lap! Thous visible god,
That solder’st close impossibilities,
And mak’st them kiss! That speak’st with every tongue,
To every purpose! O thou touch of hearts!
Think, thy slave man rebels; and by thy virtue
Set them into confounding odds, that beasts
May have in world empire! [11]

Shakespeare paints a brilliant picture of the nature of money. To understand him, let us begin by expounding the passage from Goethe.

That which exists for me through the medium of money, that which I can pay for, i.e., that which money can buy, that am I, the possessor of money. The stronger the power of my money, the stronger am I. The properties of money are my, the possessor’s, properties and essential powers. Therefore, what I am and what I can do is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy the most beautiful woman. Which means to say that I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness, its repelling power, is destroyed by money. As an individual, I am lame, but money procurs me 24 legs. Consequently, I am not lame. I am a wicked, dishonest, unscrupulous and stupid individual, but money is respected, and so also is its owner. Money is the highest good, and consequently its owner is also good. Moreover, money spares me the trouble of being dishonest, and I am therefore presumed to be honest. I am mindless, but if money is the true mind of all things, how can its owner be mindless? What is more, he can buy clever people for himself, and is not he who has power over clever people cleverer than them? Through money, I can have anything the human heart desires. Do I not possess all human abilities? Does not money therefore transform all my incapacities into their opposite?

If money is the bond which ties me to human life and society to me, which links me to nature and to man, is money not the bond of all bonds? Can it not bind and loose all bonds? Is it therefore not the universal means of separation? It is the true agent of separation and the true cementing agent, it is the chemical power of society.

Shakespeare brings out two properties of money in particular:

  1. It is the visible divinity, the transformation of all human and natural qualities into their opposites, the universal confusion and inversion of things; it brings together impossibilities.
  2. It is the universal whore, the universal pimp of men and peoples.

The inversion and confusion of all human and natural qualities, the bringing together of impossibilities, the divine power of money lies in its nature as the estranged and alienating species-essence of man which alienates itself by selling itself. It is the alienated capacity of mankind.

What I, as a man, do — i.e., what all my individual powers cannot do — I can do with the help of money. Money, therefore, transforms each of these essential powers into something which it is not, into its opposite.

If I desire a meal, or want to take the mail coach because I am not strong enough to make the journey on foot, money can provide me both the meal and the mail coach — i.e., it transfers my wishes from the realm of imagination, it translates them from their existence as thought, imagination, and desires, into their sensuous, real existence, from imagination into life, and from imagined being into real being. In this mediating role, money is the truly creative power.

Demand also exists for those who have no money, but their demand is simply a figment of the imagination. For me, or for any other third party, it has no effect, no existence. For me, it therefore remains unreal and without an object. The difference between effective demand based on money and ineffective demand based on my need, my passion, my desire, etc., is the difference between being and thinking, between a representation which merely exists within me and one which exists outside me as a real object.

If I have money for travel, I have no need — i.e., no real and self-realizing need — to travel. If I have a vocation to study, but no money for it, I have no vocation to study — i.e., no real, true vocation. But, if I really do not have any vocation to study, but have the will and the money, then I have an effective vocation do to so. Money, which is the external, universal means and power — derived not from man as man, and not from human society as society — to turn imagination into reality and reality into more imagination, similarly turns real human and natural powers into purely abstract representations, and therefore imperfections and phantoms — truly impotent powers which exist only in the individual’s fantasy — into real essential powers and abilities. Thus characterized, money is the universal inversion of individualities, which it turns into their opposites and to whose qualities it attaches contradictory qualities.

Money, therefore, appears as an inverting power in relation to the individual and to those social and other bonds which claim to be essences in themselves. It transforms loyalty into treason, love into hate, hate into love, virtue into vice, vice into virtue, servant into master, master into servant, nonsense into reason, and reason into nonsense.

Since money, as the existing and active concept of value, confounds and exchanges everything, it is the universal confusion and exchange of all things, an inverted world, the confusion and exchange of all natural and human qualities.

He who can buy courage is brave, even if he is a coward. Money is not exchange for a particular quality, a particular thing, or for any particular one of the essential powers of man, but for the whole objective world of man and of nature. Seen from the standpoint of the person who possesses it, money exchanges every quality for every other quality and object, even if it is contradictory; it is the power which brings together impossibilities and forces contradictions to embrace.

If we assume man to be man, and his relation to the world to be a human one, then love can be exchanged only for love, trust for trust, and so on. If you wish to enjoy art, you must be an artistically educated person; if you wish to exercise influence on other men, you must be the sort of person who has a truly stimulating and encouraging effect on others. Each one of your relations to man — and to nature — must be a particular expression, corresponding to the object of your will, of your real individual life. If you love unrequitedly — i.e., if your love as love does not call forth love in return, if, through the vital expression of yourself as a loving person, you fail to become a loved person — then your love is impotent, it is a misfortune.

  1. Friedrich Engels, 1843. Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy

  2. Prostitution is only a particular expression of the universal prostitution of the worker, and since prostitution is a relationship which includes not only the prostituted but also the prostitutor — whose infamy is even greater — the capitalist is also included in this category. 

  3. It is therefore just as varied as the determinations of the human essence and activities. 

  4. Moses Hess, 1843. Die Philosophie der Tat [The Philosophy of Action]. 

  5. In practice I can only relate myself to a thing in a human way if the thing is related in a human way to man. 

  6. Adam Smith, 1776. Wealth of Nations. Quoted with omissions and alterations. 

  7. Jean-Baptiste Say, 1817. A Treatise on Political Economy

  8. Fryderyk Skarbek, 1829. Theorie des richesses sociales [Theory of Social Wealth]. 

  9. James Mill, 1821. Elements of Political Economy

  10. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1806. Faust, Part 1. (English translation taken from Goethe’s Faust, Part 1, translated by Philip Wayne, Penguin, 1949, p. 91.) 

  11. William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens. Act IV, Scene 3. (Marx quotes the Schlegel-Tieck translation.)