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Karl Marx: “Power of Money”

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 Power of Money" and its true meaning. However, without proper translating techniques "The Power of Money" could seem impossible to fully grasp or appreciate. Below I have broken down the quotes (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 not 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 a mansion. Therefore I am not lame."

When gaining power from money, the characteristics of an individual becomes less important. For example, an "unattractive" person with an abundance of money can buy themselves a beautiful spouse, therefore voiding his original character flaw of being "unattractive". Hypothetically, if I am morally bad or harmful; but money is honored, then hence its possessor. Money saves the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed to be honest. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good.

"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?

Essentially, the money is honorable thus the owner as well. Being unintelligent or unsuitable for a job has no meaning and is often easily overlooked by the general public. Why? Due to the amount an individual has in the bank. Society assumes money requires the possessor to have a wits about them in order to maintain such financial strength. In fact, the possessor of money is viewed contrarily by the public. For example, if the possessor of money is a liar, the general public sees the reverse- "supreme" good.

Marx continues:

"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? ”

Here: Marx is asking, if the possessor of money has the ability to buy whatever the heart desires, subsequently can the possessor obtain all human capacities (i.e. all power)?


Money + Properties Gained= Powerful Possessor

Powerful Possessor + Individual Incapacity (a person's lack of) = Contrary Output

"Does the wherewith accompanied with the possessor allow them to defeat anything they may lack as an individual?"

Ponder. Be it smarts, looks, or honesty?

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