Karl Marx
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

Antithesis of Capital and Labour.
Landed Property and Capital

... forms the interest on his capital. The worker is the subjective manifestation of the fact that capital is man wholly lost to himself, just as capital is the objective manifestation of the fact that labour is man lost to himself. But the worker has the misfortune to be a living capital, and therefore an indigent capital, one which loses its interest, and hence its livelihood, every moment it is not working. The value of the worker as capital rises according to demand and supply, and physically too his existence, his life, was and is looked upon as a supply of a commodity like any other. The worker produces capital, capital produces him – hence he produces himself, and man as worker, as a commodity, is the product of this entire cycle. To the man who is nothing more than a worker – and to him as a worker – his human qualities only exist insofar as they exist for capital alien to him. Because man and capital are alien, foreign to each other, however, and thus stand in an indifferent, external and accidental relationship to each other, it is inevitable that this foreignness should also appear as something real. As soon, therefore, as it occurs to capital (whether from necessity or caprice) no longer to be for the worker, he himself is no longer for himself: he has no work, hence no wages, and since he has no existence as a human being but only as a worker, he can go and bury 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 some capital exists for him. The existence of capital is his existence, his life; as it determines the tenor of his life in a manner indifferent to him.

Political economy, therefore, does not recognise the unemployed worker, the workingman, insofar as he happens to be outside this labour relationship. The rascal, swindler, beggar, the unemployed, the starving, wretched and criminal workingman – these are figures who do not exist for political economy but only for other eyes, those of the doctor, the judge, the grave-digger, and bum-bailiff, etc.; such figures are spectres outside its domain. For it, therefore, the worker's needs are but the one need – to maintain him whilst he is working and insofar as may be necessary to prevent the race of labourers from [dying] out. The wages of labour have thus exactly the same significance as the maintenance and servicing of any other productive instrument, or as the consumption of capital in general, required for its reproduction with interest, like the oil which is applied to wheels to keep them turning. Wages, therefore, belong to capital's and the capitalist's necessary costs, and must not exceed the bounds of this necessity. It was therefore quite logical for the English factory owners, before the Amendment Bill of 1834 to deduct from the wages of the worker the public charity which he was receiving out of the Poor Rate and to consider this to be an integral part of wages. [24]

Production does not simply produce man as a commodity, the human commodity, man in the role of commodity; it produces him in keeping with this role as a mentally and physically dehumanised being. – Immorality, deformity, and dulling of the workers and the capitalists. – Its product is the self-conscious and self-acting commodity ... the human commodity.... Great advance of 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. Not how many workers are maintained by a given capital, but rather how much interest it brings in, the sum-total of the annual savings, is said to be the true purpose of production.

It was likewise a great and consistent advance of modern English political economy, that, whilst elevating labour to the position of its sole principle, it should at the same time expound with complete clarity the inverse relation between wages and interest on capital, and the fact that the capitalist could normally only gain by pressing down wages, and vice versa. Not the defrauding of the consumer, but the capitalist and the worker taking advantage of each other, is shown to be the normal relationship.

The relations of private property contain latent within them the relation of private property as labour, the relation of private property as capital, and the mutual relation of these two to one another. There is the production of human activity as labour – that is, as an activity quite alien to itself, to man and to nature, and therefore to consciousness and the expression of life – the abstract existence of man as a mere workman who may therefore daily fall from his filled void into the absolute void – into his social, and therefore actual, non-existence. On the other hand, there is the production of the object of human activity as capital – in which all the natural and social characteristic of the object is extinguished; in which private property has lost its natural and social quality (and therefore every political and social illusion, and is not associated with any apparently human relations); in which the selfsame capital remains the same in the most diverse natural and social manifestations, totally indifferent to its real content. This contradiction, driven to the limit, is of necessity the limit, the culmination, and the downfall of the whole private-property relationship.

It is therefore another great achievement of modern English political economy to have declared rent of land to be the difference in the interest yielded by the worst and the best land under cultivation; to have [exposed] the landowner's romantic illusions – his alleged social importance and the identity of his interest with the interest of society, a view still maintained by Adam Smith after the Physiocrats; and to [have] anticipated and prepared the movement of the real world which will transform the landowner into an ordinary, prosaic capitalist, and thus simplify and sharpen the contradiction [between capital and labour] and. hasten its resolution. Land as land, and rent as rent, have lost their distinction of rank and become insignificant capital and interest – or rather, capital and interest that signify only money.

The distinction between capital and land, between profit and rent, and between both and wages, and industry, and agriculture, and immovable and movable private property – this distinction is not rooted in the nature of things, but is a historical distinction, a fixed historical moment in the formation and development of the contradiction between capital and labour. In industry, etc., as opposed to immovable landed property, is only expressed the way in which [industry] came into being and the contradiction to agriculture in which industry developed. This distinction only continues to exist as a special sort of work – as an essential, important and life-embracing distinction – so long as industry (town life) develops over and against landed property (aristocratic feudal life) and itself continues to bear the feudal character of its opposite in the form of monopoly, craft, guild, corporation, etc., within which labour still has a seemingly social significance, still the significance of the real community, and has not yet reached the stage of indifference to its content, of complete being-for-self[25], i. e., of abstraction from all other being, and hence has not yet become liberated capital.

But liberated industry, industry constituted for itself as such, and liberated capital, are the necessary development of labour. The power of industry over its opposite is at once revealed in the emergence of agriculture as a real industry, while previously it left most of the work to the soil and to the slave of the soil, through whom the land cultivated itself. With the transformation of the slave into a free worker – i.e., into a hireling – the landlord himself is transformed into a captain of industry, into a capitalist – a transformation which takes place at first through the intermediacy of the tenant farmer. The tenant farmer, however, is the landowner's representative – the landowner's revealed secret: it is only through him that the landowner has his economic existence – his existence as a private proprietor – for the rent of his land only exists due to the competition between the farmers.

Thus, in the person of the tenant farmer the landlord has already become in essence a common capitalist. And this must come to pass, too, in actual fact: the capitalist engaged in agriculture – the tenant – must become a landlord, or vice versa. The tenant's industrial hucksterism is the landowner's industrial hucksterism, for the being of the former postulates the being of the latter.

But mindful of their contrasting origin, of their line of descent, the landowner knows the capitalist as his insolent, liberated, enriched slave of yesterday and sees himself as a capitalist who is threatened by him. The capitalist knows the landowner as the idle, cruel, egotistical master of yesterday; he knows that he injures him as a capitalist, but that it is to industry that he owes all his present social significance, his possessions and his pleasures; he sees in him a contradiction to free industry and to free capital – to capital independent of every natural limitation. This contradiction is extremely bitter, and each side tells the truth about the other. One need only read the attacks of immovable on movable property and vice versa to obtain a clear picture of their respective worthlessness. The landowner lays stress on the noble lineage of his property, on feudal souvenirs or reminiscences, the poetry of recollection, on his romantic disposition, on his political importance, etc.; and when he talks economics, it is only agriculture that he holds to be productive. At the same time he depicts his adversary as a sly, hawking, carping, deceitful, greedy, mercenary, rebellious, heartless and spiritless person who is estranged from the community and freely trades it away, who breeds, nourishes and cherishes competition, and with it pauperism, crime, and the dissolution of all social bonds, an extorting, pimping, servile, smooth, flattering, fleecing, dried-up rogue without honour, principles, poetry, substance, or anything else. (Amongst others see the Physiocrat Bergasse, whom Camille Desmoulins flays in his journal, Révolutions de France et de Brabant [26]; see von Vincke, Lancizolle, Haller, Leo, Kosegarten and also Sismondi.)

[See on the other hand the garrulous, old-Hegelian theologian Funke who tells, after Herr Leo, with tears in his eyes how a slave had refused, when serfdom was abolished, to cease being the property of the gentry [27]. See also the patriotic visions of Justus Möser, which distinguish themselves by the fact that they never for a moment ... abandon the respectable, petty-bourgeois "home-baked", ordinary, narrow horizon of the philistine, and which nevertheless remain pure fancy. This contradiction has given them such an appeal to the German heart.- Note by Marx.]

Movable property, for its part, points to the miracles of industry and progress. It is the child of modern times, whose legitimate, native-born son it is. It pities its adversary as a simpleton, unenlightened about his own nature (and in this it is completely right), who wants to replace moral capital and free labour by brute, immoral violence and serfdom. It depicts him as a Don Quixote, who under the guise of bluntness, respectability, the general interest, and stability, conceals incapacity for progress, greedy self-indulgence, selfishness, sectional interest, and evil intent. It declares him an artful monopolist; it pours cold water on his reminiscences, his poetry, and his romanticism by a historical and sarcastic enumeration of the baseness, cruelty, degradation, prostitution, infamy, anarchy and rebellion, of which romantic castles were the workshops.

It claims to have obtained political freedom for everybody; to have loosed the chains which fettered civil society; to have linked together different worlds; to have created trade promoting friendship between the peoples; to have created pure morality and a pleasant culture; to have given the people civilised needs in place of their crude wants, and the means of satisfying them. Meanwhile, it claims, the landowner – this idle, parasitic grain-profiteer – raises the price of the people's basic necessities and so forces the capitalist to raise wages without being able to increase productivity, thus impeding [the growth of] the nation's annual income, the accumulation of capital, and therefore the possibility of providing work for the people and wealth for the country, eventually cancelling it, thus producing a general decline – whilst he parasitically exploits every advantage of modern civilisation without doing the least thing for it, and without even abating in the slightest his feudal prejudices. Finally, let him – for whom the cultivation of the land and the land itself exist only as a source of money, which comes to him as a present - let him just take a look at his tenant farmer and say whether he himself is not a downright, fantastic, sly scoundrel who in his heart and in actual fact has for a long time belonged to free industry and to lovely trade, however much he may protest and prattle about historical memories and ethical or political goals. Everything which he can really advance to justify himself is true only of the cultivator of the land (the capitalist and the labourers), of whom the landowner is rather the enemy. Thus he gives evidence against himself. [Movable property claims that] without capital landed property is dead, worthless matter; that its civilised victory has discovered and made human labour the source of wealth in place of the dead thing. (See Paul Louis Courier, Saint-Simon, Ganilh, Ricardo, Mill, McCulloch and Destutt de Tracy and Michel Chevalier.)

The real course of development (to be inserted at this point) results in the necessary victory of the capitalist over the landowner – that is to say, of developed over undeveloped, immature private property – just as in general, movement must triumph over immobility; open, self-conscious baseness over hidden, unconscious baseness; cupidity over self-indulgence; the avowedly restless, adroit self-interest of enlightenment over the parochial, worldly-wise, respectable, idle and fantastic self-interest of superstition; and money over the other forms of private property.

Those states which sense something of the danger attaching to fully developed free industry, to fully developed pure morality and to fully developed philanthropic trade, try, but in vain, to hold in check the capitalisation of landed property.

Landed property in its distinction from capital is private property – capital – still afflicted with local and political prejudices; it is capital which has not yet extricated itself from its entanglement with the world and found the form proper to itself – capital not yet fully developed. It must achieve its abstract, that is, its pure, expression in the course of its cosmogony.

The character of private property is expressed by labour, capital, and the relations between these two. The movement through which these constituents have to pass is:

First. Unmediated or mediated unity of the two.

Capital and labour are at first still united. Then, though separated and estranged, they reciprocally develop and promote each other as positive conditions.

[Second.] The two in opposition, mutually excluding each other. The worker knows the capitalist as his own non-existence, and vice versa: each tries to rob the other of his existence.

[Third.] Opposition of each to itself. Capital = stored-up labour = labour. As such it splits into capital itself and its interest, and this latter again into interest and profit. The capitalist is completely sacrificed. He falls into the working class, whilst the worker (but only exceptionally) becomes a capitalist. Labour as a moment of capital – its costs. Thus the wages of labour - a sacrifice of capital.

Splitting of labour into labour itself and the wages of labour. The worker himself a capital, a commodity.

Clash of mutual contradictions.



Preface and Table of Contents | Third Manuscript