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Our selections come from Volume 1 of Marx's 1867 Capital, trans. Ben Fowkes (Penguin, 1976), 280, 381.
Home > Philosophy > Texts > Social & Political Philosophy > Marx on Appearance and Reality of Markets

Marx on Appearance and Reality of Markets

"Marx," by Mitch Francis

“Marx,” by Mitch Francis

Marx: the Appearance is an Eden of Freedom…

For a biographical introduction to Marx, visit this page.

from Part II: The Transformation of Money in Capital, Chapter 6, “The Buying and Selling of Labour-Power”

The Eden of nature and rights…

The sphere of circulation or commodity exchange, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, let us say of labour-power, are determined only by their own free will. They contract as free persons, who are equal before the law. Their contract is the final result in which their joint will finds a common legal expression. Equality, because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property, because each disposes only of what is his own. And Bentham, because each looks only to his own advantage. The only force bringing them together, and putting them into relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interest of each. Each pays heed to himself only, and no one worries about the others. And precisely for that reason, either in accordance with the pre-established harmony of things, or under the auspices of an omniscient providence, they all work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal, and in the common interest.

… but, the reality is quite contrary.

When we leave this sphere of simple circulation or the exchange of commodities, which provides the ‘free-trader vulgaris‘ with his views, his concepts and the standard by which he judges the society of capital and wage-labour, a certain change takes place, or so it appears, in the physiognomy of our dramatis personae. He who was previously the money-owner now strides out in front as a capitalist; the possessor of labour-power follows as his worker. The one smirks self-importantly and is intent on business; the other is timid and holds back, like someone who has brought his own hide to market and now has nothing else to expect but – a tanning….

from Part III: The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value, section 5 of Chapter 10, “The Working Day.”

Even the capitalist lacks true freedom.

In every stock-jobbing swindle everyone knows that some time or other the crash must come, but everyone hopes that it may fall on the head of his neighbour, after he himself has caught the shower of gold and placed it in secure hands. Apres moi le deluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Capital therefore takes no account of the health and the length of life of the worker, unless society forces it to do so. Its answer to the outcry about the physical and mental degradation, the premature death, the torture of over-work, is this: Should that pain trouble us, since it increases our pleasure (profit)? But looking at these things as a whole, it is evident that this does not depend on the will, either good or bad, of the individual capitalist. Under free competition, the immanent laws of capitalist production con- front the individual capitalist as a coercive force external to him.
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