Karl Marx’s “Power of Money” Investigating the Meaning
I recently read an article published by Tony Waters on Ethnography.com discussing an excerpt from Karl Marx’s (1844) “The Power of Money. The article does a fabulous job summing up the quote and its true meaning, however without a trained eye or proper translating techniques……such a piece could seem impossible to fully grasp or appreciate. Below I have broken down the quote (seen in Purple) step by step to achieve overall understanding.
“ That which is for me through the medium of money – that for which I can pay (i.e., which money can buy) – that am I myself, the possessor of the money. The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my – the possessor’s – properties and essential powers.
- Here, Marx is stating that the power he owns only extends as far as his money. Money has the ability to acquire properties, thus maintaining or increasing the power of the possessor.
- If money is linked to something having power, the proprietor consequently also has that power.
Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness – its deterrent power – is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame.
- When gaining money from power, the characteristics of an individual becomes less important. For example, even though he is an ugly man money can buy him a beautiful wife, therefore voiding his original character flaw of being ugly.
I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has [In the manuscript: ‘is’. – Ed.] power over the clever not more clever than the clever?
- Marx continues: Being unintelligent or unsuitable for a job has no meaning. It would easily be overlooked by the general public. Why? Due to what he has in the bank. People conclude that having money requires the possessor to have a sort of wits about them in order for to maintain such financial strength.
- In fact, the possessor of money is viewed contrarily by the public. For example, if the possessor is a liar……the general public sees the reverse “supreme” good, meaning they (the public) will see the money as honorable thus the owner of it as well.
Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary? ”
- The reader is first asked…..if the possessor of money has the ability to buy whatever the heart desires, subsequently can the possessor obtain all human capacities (i.e. power)? In a way this is similar to saying:
- Money + Properties Gained= Powerful Possessor.
- Powerful Possessor + Individual Incapacity (a person’s lack of)= Contrary Output
- Lastly, Karl Marx asks……does the wherewith accompanied with the possessor allow them to defeat anything they may lack as an individual? Be it smarts, looks, or honesty? Ponder.
Examining this excerpt of “Power of Money” by Karl Marx is just the beginning of another article being published soon. It will compare the Power of Money vs Power of Beauty. Toodles.