Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts

Second Manuscript

The Relationship of Private Property

... forms the interest on his capital. The worker is the subjective manifestation of the fact that capital is man completely lost to himself, just as capital is the objective manifestation of the fact that labor is man lost to himself. But the worker has the misfortune to be a living capital, and, hence, a capital with needs, which forfeits its interest and hence its existence every moment it is not working. As capital, the value of the worker rises or falls in accordance with supply and demand, and even in a physical sense his existence, his life, was and is treated as a supply of a commodity, like any other commodity. The worker produces capital and capital produces him, which means that he produces himself; man as a worker, as a commodity, is the product of this entire cycle. The human properties of man as a worker -- man who is nothing more than a worker -- exist only insofar as they exist for a capital which is alien to him. But, because each is alien to the other, and stands in an indifferent, external, and fortuitous relationship to it, this alien character inevitably appears as something real. So, soon as it occurs to capital -- whether from necessity or choice -- not to exist any longer for the worker, he no longer exists for himself; he has no work, and hence no wages, and since he exists not as a man but as a worker, he might just as well have buried himself, starve to death, etc. The worker exists as a worker only when he exists for himself as capital, and he exists as capital only when capital exists for him. The existence of capital is his existence, his life, for it determines the content of his life in a manner indifferent to him. Political economy, therefore, does not recognize the unoccupied worker, the working man insofar as he is outside this work relationship. The swindler, the cheat, the beggar, the unemployed, the starving, the destitute, and the criminal working man are figures which exist not for it, but only for other eyes -- for the eyes of doctors, judges, grave-diggers, beadles, etc. Nebulous figures which do not belong within the province of political economy. Therefore, as far as political economy is concerned, the requirements of the worker can be narrowed down to one: the need to support him while he is working and prevent the race of workers from dying out. Wages, therefore, have exactly the same meaning as the maintenance and upkeep of any other productive instrument, or as the consumption of capital in general which is necessary if it is to reproduce itself with interest -- e.g., the oil which is applied to wheels to keep them turning. Wages, therefore, belong to the necessary costs of capital and of the capitalist, and must not be in excess of this necessary amount. It was, therefore, quite logical for the English factory owners, before the Amendment Bill of 1834 [Poor Laws], to deduct from the worker's wages the public alms which he received from the Poor Rate, and to consider these aims as an integral part of those wages.

Production does not produce man only as a commodity, the human commodity, man in the form of a commodity; it also produces him as a mentally and physically dehumanized being... Immorality, malformation, stupidity of workers and capitalists... the human commodity... A great advance by Ricardo, Mill, etc., on Smith and Say, to declare the existence of the human being -- the greater or lesser human productivity of the commodity -- to be indifferent and even harmful. The real aim of production is not how many workers a particular sum of capital can support, but how much interest it brings in and how much it saves each year. Similarly, English political economy took a big step forward, and a logical one, when -- while acknowledging labor as the sole principle of political economy -- it showed with complete clarity that wages and interest on capital are inversely related and that, as a rule, the capitalist can push up his profits only by forcing down wages, and vice versa. Clearly, the normal relationship is not one in which the customer is cheated, but in which the capitalist and the worker cheat each other. The relation of private property contains latent within itself the relation of private property as labor, the relation of private property as capital, and the connection of these two. On the one hand, we have the production of human activity as labor -- i.e., as an activity wholly alien to itself, to man, and to nature, and hence to consciousness and vital expression, the abstract existence of man as a mere workman who, therefore, tumbles day-after-day from his fulfilled nothingness into absolute nothingness, into his social and, hence, real non-existence; and, on the other, the production of the object of human labor as capital, in which all the natural and social individuality of the object is extinguished and private property has lost its natural and social quality (i.e., has lost all political and social appearances and is not even apparently tainted with any human relationships), in which the same capital stays the same in the most varied natural and social circumstance, totally indifferent to its real content. This contradiction, driven to its utmost limit, is necessarily the limit, the culmination and the decline of the whole system of private property.

It is, therefore, yet another great achievement of recent English political economy to have declared ground rent to be the difference between the interest on the worst and the best land under cultivation, to have confuted the romantic illusions of the land-owner -- his alleged social importance and the identity of his interest with the interest of society, which Adam Smith continued to propound after the Physiocrats -- and to have anticipated and prepared the changes in reality which will transform the land-owner into a quite ordinary and prosaic capitalist, thereby simplifying the contradiction, bringing it to a head and hastening its resolution. Land as land and ground rent as ground rent have thereby lost their distinction in rank and have become dumb capital and interest -- or, rather, capital and interest which only talk hard cash. The distinction between capital and land, between profit and ground rent, and the distinction between both and wages, industry, agriculture, and immovable and movable private property, is not one which is grounded in the nature of things, it is a historical distinction, a fixed moment in the formation and development of the opposition between capital and labor. In industry, etc., as opposed to immovable landed property, only the manner in which industry first arose and the opposition to agriculture within which industry developed, are expressed. As a special kind of work, as an essential, important, and life-encompassing distinction, this distinction between industry and agriculture survives only as long as industry (town life) is developing in opposition to landed property (aristocratic feudal life) and continues to bear the feudal characteristics of its opposite in the form of monopoly, crafts, guilds, corporations, etc. Given these forms, labor continues to have an apparently social meaning, the meaning of genuine community, and has not yet reached the stage of indifference towards its content and of complete being-for-itself -- i.e., of abstraction from all other being and, hence, of liberated capital.

But, the necessary development of labor is liberated industry constituted for itself as such, and liberated capital. The power of industry over its antagonist is, at once, manifested in the emergence of agriculture as an actual industry, whereas previously most of the work was left to the soil itself and to the slave of the soil, through whom the soil cultivated itself. With the transformation of the slave into a free worker -- i.e., a hireling -- the landowner himself is transformed into a master of industry, a capitalist. This transformation at first took place through the agency of the tenant farmer. But the tenant farmer is the representative, the revealed secret, of the landowner; only through him does the landowner have his economic existence, his existence as a property owner -- for the ground rent of his land exists only because of the competition between the tenants. So, in the person of the tenant the landowner has already essentially become a common capitalist. And this must also be effected in reality; the capitalist engaged in agriculture -- the tenant -- must become a landlord, or vice-versa. The industrial trade of the tenant is the industrial trade of the landlord, for the existence of the former posits the existence of the latter.

But, remembering their conflicting origins and descent, the landowner sees the capitalist as his presumptuous, liberated, and enriched slave of yesterday, and himself as a capitalist who is threatened by him; the capitalist sees the landowner as the idle, cruel, and egotistical lord of yesterday; he knows that the landowner is harmful to him as a capitalist, and yet that he owes his entire present social position, his possessions and his pleasures, to industry; the capitalist sees in the landowner the antithesis of free industry and free capital, which is independent of all natural forces -- this opposition is extremely bitter, and each side tells the truth about the other. One only need read the attacks launched by immovable on movable property, and vice-versa, in order to gain a clear picture of their respective worthlessness. The land-owner emphasizes the noble lineage of his property, the feudal reminiscences, the poetry of remembrance, his high-flown nature, his political importance, etc. When he is talking economics, he avows that agriculture alone is productive. At the same time, he depicts his opponent as a wily, huckstering, censorious, deceitful, greedy, mercenary, rebellious, heartless, and soulless racketeer who is estranged from his community and busily trades it away, a profiteering, pimping, servile, smooth, affected trickster, a desiccated sharper who breeds, nourishes, and encourages competition and pauperism, crime and the dissolution of all social ties, who is without honor, principles, poetry, substance, or anything else. (See, among others, the Physiocrat Bergasse, whom Camille Desmoulins has already flayed in his journal Revolutions de France et de Brabant; see also von Vincke, Lancizolle, Haller, Leo, Kosegarten, and Sismondi.)

 MARX NOTE: See also the pompous Old Hegelian theologian Funke, who, according to Herr Leo, told with tears in his eyes how a slave had refused, when serfdom was abolished, to cease being a noble possession. See also Justus Moser's Patriotische Phantasien, which are distinguished by the fact that they never for one moment leave the staunch, petty-bourgeois, "Home-baked", ordinary, narrow-minded horizon of the philistine, and, yet still, remain pure fantasy. It is this contradiction which has made them so plausible to the German mind.

 Movable property, for its part, points to the miracles of industry and change. It is the child, the legitimate, only-begotten son, of the modern age. It feels sorry for its opponent, whom it sees as a half-wit unenlightened as to his own nature (an assessment no one could disagree with) and eager to replace moral capital and free labor by brute, immoral force and serfdom. It paints him as a Don Quixote, who, under the veneer of directness, probity, the general interest, and stability, hides an inability and evil intent. It brands him as a cunning monopolist. It discountenances his reminiscences, his poetry, and his enthusiastic gushings, by a historical and sarcastic recital of the baseness, cruelty, degradation, prostitution, infamy, anarchy, and revolt forged in the workshops of his romantic castles.

Movable property, itself, claims to have won political freedom for the world, to have loosed the chains of civil society, to have linked together different worlds, to have given rise to trade, which encourages friendship between peoples and to have created a pure morality and a pleasing culture; to have given the people civilized instead of crude wants and the means with which it satisfy them. The landowner, on the other hand -- this idle and vexatious speculator in grain -- puts up the price of the people's basic provisions and thereby forces the capitalist to put up wages without being able to raise productivity, so making it difficult, and eventually impossible, to increase the annual income of the nation and to accumulate the capital which is necessary if work is to be provided for the people and wealth for the country. As a result, the landowner brings about a general decline. Moreover, he inordinately exploits all the advantages of modern civilization without doing the least thing in return, and without mitigating a single one of his feudal prejudices. Finally, the landlord -- for whom the cultivation of the land and the soil itself exist only as a heaven-sent source of money -- should take a look at the tenant farmer and say whether he himself is not a downright, fantastic, cunning scoundrel, who in his heart and in actual fact has for a long time been part of free industry and well-loved trade, however much he may resist them and prattle of historical memories and moral or political goals. All the arguments he can genuinely advance in his own favor are only true for the cultivator of the land (the capitalist and the laborers), of whom the landowner is rather the enemy; thus, he testifies against himself. Without capital, landed property is dead, worthless matter. The civilized victory of movable capital has precisely been to reveal and create human labor as the source of wealth in place of the dead thing. (See Paul-Louis Courier, Saint-Simon, Ganilh, Ricardo, Mill, MacCulloch, Destutt de Tracy, and Michael Chevalier.)

 The real course of development (to be inserted here) leads necessarily to the victory of the capitalist -- i.e., of developed private property -- over undeveloped, immature private property -- the landowner. In the same way, movement inevitably triumphs over immobility, open and self-conscious baseness over hidden and unconscious baseness, greed over self-indulgence, the avowedly restless and versatile self-interest of enlightenment over the parochial, worldly-wise, artless, lazy and deluded self-interest of superstition, just as money must triumph over the other forms of private property. Those states which have a foreboding of the danger of allowing the full development of free industry, pure morality, and that trade which encourages friendship among peoples, attempt -- although quite in vain -- to put a stop to the capitalization of landed property.

Landed property, as distinct from capital, is private property, capital, which is still afflicted with local and political prejudices, which has not yet entirely emerged from its involvement with the world and come into its own; it is capital which is not yet fully developed. In the course of its formation on a world scale, it must attain its abstract, i.e., pure, expression. The relation of private property is labor, capital, and the connection between these two. The movement through which these parts [Glieder] have to pass is:

 First -- Unmediate or mediated unity of the two. Capital and labor, at first, still united; later, separated and estranged, but reciprocally developing and furthering each other as positive conditions.

Second -- Opposition of the two. They mutually exclude each other; the worker sees in the capitalist his own non-existence, and vice-versa; each tries to wrench from the other his existence.

Third -- Opposition of each to itself. Capital = stored-up labor = labor. As such, it divides into itself (capital) and its interest; this latter divides into interest and profit. Complete sacrifice of the capitalist. He sinks into the working class, just as the worker -- but only by way of exception -- becomes a capitalist. Labor as a moment of capital, its costs. i.e., wages a sacrifice of capital.

Labor divides into labor itself and wages of labor. The workers himself a capital, a commodity.

Hostile reciprocal opposition.

Transcribed for the Internet by director@marx.org


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