Under the Rule of Private Property
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844
||XIV|  (7) We have seen what significance, given socialism, the wealth of human needs acquires, and what significance, therefore, both a new mode of production and a new object of production obtain: a new manifestation of the forces of human nature and a new enrichment of human nature. Under private property their significance is reversed: every person speculates on creating a new need in another, so as to drive him to fresh sacrifice, to place him in a new dependence and to seduce him into a new mode of enjoyment and therefore economic ruin. Each tries to establish over the other an alien power, so as thereby to find satisfaction of his own selfish need. The increase in the quantity of objects is therefore accompanied by an extension of the realm of the alien powers to which man is subjected, and every new product represents a new potentiality of mutual swindling and mutual plundering. Man becomes ever poorer as man, his need for money becomes ever greater if he wants to master the hostile power. The power of his money declines in inverse proportion to the increase in the volume of production: that is, his neediness grows as the power of money increases.
The need for money is therefore the true need produced by the economic system, and it is the only need which the latter produces. The quantity of money becomes to an ever greater degree its sole effective quality. Just as it reduces everything to its abstract form, so it reduces itself in the course of its own movement to quantitative being. Excess and intemperance come to be its true norm.
Subjectively, this appears partly in the fact that the extension of products and needs becomes a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural and imaginary appetites. Private property does not know how to change crude need into human need. Its idealism is fantasy, caprice and whim; and no eunuch flatters his despot more basely or uses more despicable means to stimulate his dulled capacity for pleasure in order to sneak a favour for himself than does the industrial eunuch – the producer – in order to sneak for himself a few pieces of silver, in order to charm the golden birds, out of the pockets of his dearly beloved neighbours in Christ. He puts himself at the service of the other’s most depraved fancies, plays the pimp between him and his need, excites in him morbid appetites, lies in wait for each of his weaknesses – all so that he can then demand the cash for this service of love. (Every product is a bait with which to seduce away the other’s very being, his money; every real and possible need is a weakness which will lead the fly to the glue-pot. General exploitation of communal human nature, just as every imperfection in man, is a bond with heaven – an avenue giving the priest access to his heart; every need is an opportunity to approach one’s neighbour under the guise of the utmost amiability and to say to him: Dear friend, I give you what you need, but you know the conditio sine qua non; you know the ink in which you have to sign yourself over to me; in providing for your pleasure, I fleece you.)
This estrangement manifests itself in part in that the sophistication of needs and of the means (of their satisfaction) on the one side produces a bestial barbarisation, a complete, crude, abstract simplicity of need, on the other; or rather in that it merely reproduces itself in its opposite. Even the need for fresh air ceases to be a need for the worker. Man returns to a cave dwelling, which is now, however, contaminated with the pestilential breath of civilisation, and which he continues to occupy only precariously, it being for him an alien habitation which can be withdrawn from him any day – a place from which, if he does ||XV| not pay, he can be thrown out any day. For this mortuary he has to pay. A dwelling in the light, which Prometheus in Aeschylus designated as one of the greatest boons, by means of which he made the savage into a human being, ceases to exist for the worker. Light, air, etc. – the simplest animal cleanliness – ceases to be a need for man. Filth, this stagnation and putrefaction of man – the sewage of civilisation (speaking quite literally) – comes to be the element of life – for him. Utter, unnatural depravation, putrefied nature, comes to be his life-element. None of his senses exist any longer, and (each has ceased to function) not only in its human fashion, but in an inhuman fashion, so that it does not exist even in an animal fashion. The crudest methods (and instruments) of human labour are coming back: the treadmill of the Roman slaves, for instance, is the means of production, the means of existence, of many English workers. It is not only that man has no human needs – even his animal needs cease to exist. The Irishman no longer knows any need now but the need to eat, and indeed only the need to eat potatoes and scabby potatoes at that, the worst kind of potatoes. But in each of their industrial towns England and France have already a little Ireland. The savage and the animal have at least the need to hunt, to roam, etc. – the need of companionship. The simplification of the machine, of labour is used to make a worker out of the human being still in the making, the completely immature human being, the child – whilst the worker has become a neglected child. The machine accommodates itself to the weakness of the human being in order to make the weak human being into a machine.
<How the multiplication of needs and of the means (of their satisfaction) breeds the absence of needs and of means is demonstrated by the political economist (and by the capitalist: in general it is always empirical businessmen we are talking about when we refer to political economists, (who represent) their scientific creed and form of existence) as follows:
(1) By reducing the worker’s need to the barest and most miserable level of physical subsistence, and by reducing his activity to the most abstract mechanical movement; thus he says: Man has no other need either of activity or of enjoyment. For he declares that this life, too, is human life and existence.
(2) By counting the most meagre form of life (existence) as the standard, indeed, as the general standard – general because it is applicable to the mass of men. He turns the worker into an insensible being lacking all needs, just as he changes his activity into a pure abstraction from all activity. To him, therefore, every luxury of the worker seems to be reprehensible, and everything that goes beyond the most abstract need – be it in the realm of passive enjoyment, or a manifestation of activity – seems to him a luxury. Political economy, this science of wealth, is therefore simultaneously the science of renunciation, of want, of saving and it actually reaches the point where it spares man the need of either fresh air or physical exercise. This science of marvellous industry is simultaneously the science of asceticism, and its true ideal is the ascetic but extortionate miser and the ascetic but productive slave. Its moral ideal is the worker who takes part of his wages to the savings-bank, and it has even found ready-made a servile art which embodies this pet idea: it has been presented, bathed in sentimentality, on the stage. Thus political economy – despite its worldly and voluptuous appearance – is a true moral science, the most moral of all the sciences. Self-renunciation, the renunciation of life and of all human needs, is its principal thesis. The less you eat, drink and buy books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being. Everything ||XVI| which the political economist takes from you in life and in humanity, he replaces for you in money and in wealth; and all the things which you cannot do, your money can do. It can eat and, drink, go to the dance hall and the theatre; it can travel, it can appropriate art, learning, the treasures of the past, political power – all this it can appropriate for you – it can buy all this: it is true endowment. Yet being all this, it wants to do nothing but create itself, buy itself; for everything else is after all its servant, and when I have the master I have the servant and do not need his servant. All passions and all activity must therefore be submerged in avarice. The worker may only have enough for him to want to live, and may only want to live in order to have that.>
It is true that a controversy now arises in the field of political economy. The one side (Lauderdale, Malthus, etc.) recommends luxury and execrates thrift. The other (Say, Ricardo, etc.) recommends thrift and execrates luxury. But the former admits that it wants luxury in order to produce labour (i.e., absolute thrift); and the latter admits that it recommends thrift in order to produce wealth (i.e., luxury). The Lauderdale-Malthus school has the romantic notion that avarice alone ought not to determine the consumption of the rich, and it contradicts its own laws in advancing extravagance as a direct means of enrichment. Against it, therefore, the other side very earnestly and circumstantially proves that I do not increase but reduce my possessions by being extravagant. The Say-Ricardo school is hypocritical in not admitting that it is precisely whim and caprice which determine production. It forgets the “refined needs”, it forgets that there would be no production without consumption; it forgets that as a result of competition production can only become more extensive and luxurious. It forgets that, according to its views, a thing’s value is determined by use, and that use is determined by fashion. It wishes to see only “useful things” produced, but it forgets that production of too many useful things produces too large a useless population. Both sides forget that extravagance and thrift, luxury and privation, wealth and poverty are equal.
And you must not only stint the gratification of your immediate senses, as by stinting yourself on food, etc.: you must also spare yourself all sharing of general interests, all sympathy, all trust, etc., if you want to be economical, if you do not want to be ruined by illusions.
<You must make everything that is yours saleable, i.e., useful. If I ask the political economist: Do I obey economic laws if I extract money by offering my body for sale, by surrendering it to another’s lust? (The factory workers in France call the prostitution of their wives and daughters the nth working hour, which is literally correct.) – Or am I not acting in keeping with political economy if I sell my friend to the Moroccans? (And the direct sale of men in the form of a trade in conscripts, etc., takes place in all civilised countries.) – Then the political economist replies to me: You do not transgress my laws; but see what Cousin Ethics and Cousin Religion have to say about it. My political economic ethics and religion have nothing to reproach you with, but – But whom am I now to believe, political economy or ethics? – The ethics of political economy is acquisition, work, thrift, sobriety – but political economy promises to satisfy my needs. – The political economy of ethics is the opulence of a good conscience, of virtue, etc.; but how can I live virtuously if I do not live? And how can I have a good conscience if I do not know anything? It stems from the very nature of estrangement that each sphere applies to me a different and opposite yardstick – ethics one and political economy another; for each is a specific estrangement of man and> ||XVII| focuses attention on a particular field of estranged essential activity, and each stands in an estranged relation to the other. Thus M. Michel Chevalier reproaches Ricardo with having ignored ethics. But Ricardo is allowing political economy to speak its own language, and if it does not speak ethically, this is not Ricardo’s fault. M. Chevalier takes no account of political economy insofar as he moralises, but he really and necessarily ignores ethics insofar as he practises political economy. The relationship of political economy to ethics, if it is other than an arbitrary, contingent and therefore unfounded and unscientific relationship, if it is not being posited for the sake of appearance but is meant to be essential, can only be the relationship of the laws of political economy to ethics. If there is no such connection, or if the contrary is rather the case, can Ricardo help it? Moreover, the opposition between political economy and ethics is only an apparent opposition and just as much no opposition as it is an opposition. All that happens is that political economy expresses moral laws in its own way.
<Frugality as the principle of political economy is most brilliantly shown in its theory of population. There are too many people. Even the existence of men is a pure luxury; and if the worker is “ethical”, he will be sparing in procreation. (Mill suggests public acclaim for those who prove themselves continent in their sexual relations, and public rebuke for those who sin against such barrenness of marriage …. Is this not ethics, the teaching of asceticism?) The production of people appears as public destitution.>
The meaning which production has in relation to the rich is seen revealed in the meaning which it has for the poor. Looking upwards the manifestation is always refined, veiled, ambiguous – outward appearance; downwards, it is rough, straightforward, frank – the real thing. The worker’s crude need is a far greater source of gain than the refined need of the rich. The cellar dwellings in London bring more to those who let them than do the palaces; that is to say, with reference to the landlord they constitute greater wealth, and thus (to speak the language of political economy) greater social wealth.
Industry speculates on the refinement of needs, it speculates however just as much on their crudeness, but on their artificially produced crudeness, whose true enjoyment, therefore, is self-stupefaction – this illusory satisfaction of need this civilisation contained within the crude barbarism of need. The English gin shops are therefore the symbolical representations of private property. Their luxury reveals the true relation of industrial luxury and wealth to man. They are therefore rightly the only Sunday pleasures of the people which the English police treats at least mildly.|XVII||
||XVIII|  We have already seen how the political economist establishes the unity of labour and capital in a variety of ways: (1) Capital is accumulated labour. (2) The purpose of capital within production – partly, reproduction of capital with profit, partly, capital as raw material (material of labour), and partly, as an automatically working instrument (the machine is capital directly equated with labour) – is productive labour. (3) The worker is a capital. (4) Wages belong to costs of capital. (5) In relation to the worker, labour is the reproduction of his life-capital. (6) In relation to the capitalist, labour is an aspect of his capital’s activity.
Finally, (7) the political economist postulates the original unity of capital and labour as the unity of the capitalist and the worker; this is the original state of paradise. The way in which these two aspects, ||XIX| as two persons, confront each other is for the political economist an accidental event, and hence only to be explained by reference to external factors. (See, Mill.)
The nations which are still dazzled by the sensuous glitter of precious metals, and are therefore still fetish-worshippers of metal money, are not yet fully developed money-nations. Contrast of France and England.
The extent to which the solution of theoretical riddles is the task of practice and effected through practice, the extent to which true practice is the condition of a real and positive theory, is shown, for example, in fetishism. The sensuous consciousness of the fetish-worshipper is different from that of the Greek, because his sensuous existence is different. The abstract enmity between sense and spirit is necessary so long as the human feeling for nature, the human sense of nature, and therefore also the natural sense of man, are not yet produced by man’s own labour.
Equality is nothing but a translation of the German “Ich = Ich”  into the French, i.e., political form. Equality as the basis of communism is its political justification, and it is the same as when the German justifies it by conceiving man as universal self-consciousness. Naturally, the transcendence of the estrangement always proceeds from that form of the estrangement which is the dominant power: in Germany, self-consciousness; in France, equality, because it is politics; in England, real, material, practical need taking only itself as its standard. It is from this standpoint that Proudhon is to be criticised and appreciated.
If we characterise communism itself because of its character as negation of the negation, as the appropriation of the human essence through the intermediary of the negation of private property – as being not yet the true, self-originating position but rather a position originating from private property (…) in old-German fashion – in the way of Hegel’s phenomenology – (…) finished as a conquered moment and (…) one might be satisfied by it, in his consciousness (…) of the human being only by real […] transcendence of his thought now as before since with him therefore the real estrangement of the life of man remains, and remains all the more, the more one is conscious of it as such, hence it (the negation of this estrangement) can be accomplished solely by bringing about communism.
In order to abolish the idea of private property, the idea of communism is quite sufficient. It takes actual communist action to abolish actual private property. History will lead to it; and this movement, which in theory we already know to be a self-transcending movement, will constitute in actual fact a very rough and protracted process. But we must regard it as a real advance to have at the outset gained a consciousness of the limited character as well as of the goal of this historical movement – and a consciousness which reaches out beyond it.
When communist artisans associate with one another, theory, propaganda, etc., is their first end. But at the same time, as a result of this association, they acquire a new need – the need for society – and what appears as a means becomes an end. In this practical process the most splendid results are to be observed whenever French socialist workers are seen together. Such things as smoking, drinking, eating, etc., are no longer means of contact or means that bring them together. Association, society and conversation, which again has association as its end, are enough for them; the brotherhood of man is no mere phrase with them, but a fact of life, and the nobility of man shines upon us from their work-hardened bodies.
||XX| <When political economy claims that demand and supply always balance each other, it immediately forgets that according to its own claim (theory of population) the supply of people always exceeds the demand, and that, therefore, in the essential result of the whole production process – the existence of man – the disparity between demand and supply gets its most striking expression.
The extent to which money, which appears as a means, constitutes true power and the sole end – the extent to which in general the means which turns me into a being, which gives me possession of the alien objective being, is an end in itself … can be clearly seen from the fact that landed property, wherever land is the source of life, and horse and sword, wherever these are the true means of life, are also acknowledged as the true political powers in life. In the Middle Ages a social estate is emancipated as soon as it is allowed to carry the sword. Amongst nomadic peoples it is the horse which makes me a free man and a participant in the life of the community.
We have said above that man is regressing to the cave dwelling, etc. – but he is regressing to it in an estranged, malignant form. The savage in his cave – a natural element which freely offers itself for his use and protection – feels himself no more a stranger, or rather feels as much at home as a fish in water. But the cellar dwelling of the poor man is a hostile element, “a dwelling which remains an alien power and only gives itself up to him insofar as he gives up to it his own blood and sweat” – a dwelling which he cannot regard as his own hearth – where he might at last exclaim: “Here I am at home” – but where instead he finds himself in someone else’s house, in the house of a stranger who always watches him and throws him out if he does not pay his rent. He is also aware of the contrast in quality between his dwelling and a human dwelling that stands in the other world, in the heaven of wealth.
Estrangement is manifested not only in the fact that my means of life belong to someone else, that which I desire is the inaccessible possession of another, but also in the fact that everything is itself something different from itself – that my activity is something else and that, finally (and this applies also to the capitalist), all is under (the sway) of inhuman power.
There is a form of inactive, extravagant wealth given over wholly to pleasure, the enjoyer of which on the one hand behaves as a mere ephemeral individual frantically spending himself to no purpose, and also regards the slave-labour of others (human sweat and blood) as the prey of his cupidity. He therefore knows man himself, and hence also his own self, as a sacrificed and futile being. With such wealth contempt of man makes its appearance, partly as arrogance and as squandering of what can give sustenance to a hundred human lives, and partly as the infamous illusion that his own unbridled extravagance and ceaseless, unproductive consumption is the condition of the other’s labour and therefore of his subsistence. He regards the realisation of the essential powers of man only as the realisation of his own excesses, his whims and capricious, bizarre notions. This wealth which, on the other hand, again knows wealth as a mere means, as something that is good for nothing but to be annihilated and which is therefore at once slave and master, at once magnanimous and base, capricious, presumptuous, conceited, refined, cultured and witty – this wealth has not yet experienced wealth as an utterly alien power over itself: it sees in it, rather, only its own power, and (not)a wealth but enjoyment (is its final) aim.
This […] ||XXI| and the glittering illusion about the nature of wealth, blinded by sensuous appearances, is confronted by the working, sober, prosaic, economical industrialist who is quite enlightened about the nature of wealth, and who, while providing a wider sphere for the other’s self – indulgence and paying fulsome flatteries to him in his products (for his products are just so many base compliments to the appetites of the spendthrift), knows how to appropriate for himself in the only useful way the other’s waning power. If, therefore, industrial wealth appears at first to be the result of extravagant, fantastic wealth, yet its motion, the motion inherent in it, ousts the latter also in an active way. For the fall in the rate of interest is a necessary consequence and result of industrial development. The extravagant rentier’s means therefore dwindle day by day in inverse proportion to the increasing possibilities and pitfalls of pleasure. Consequently, he must either consume his capital, thus ruining himself, or must become an industrial capitalist…. In the other hand, there is a direct, constant rise in the rent of land as a result of the course of industrial development; nevertheless, as we have already seen, there must come a time when landed property, like every other kind of property, is bound to fall within the category of profitably self-reproducing capital – and this in fact results from the same industrial development. Thus the squandering landowner, too, must either consume his capital, and thus be ruined, or himself become the farmer of his own estate – an agricultural industrialist.
The diminution in the interest on money, which Proudhon regards as the annulling of capital and as a tendency to socialise capital, is therefore in fact rather only a symptom of the total victory of working capital over squandering wealth – i.e., the transformation of all private property into industrial capital. It is a total victory of private property over all those of its qualities which are still in appearance human, and the complete subjection of the owner of private property to the essence of private property – labour. To be sure, the industrial capitalist also takes his pleasures. He does not by any means return to the unnatural simplicity of need; but his pleasure is only a side-issue – recreation – something subordinated to production; at the same time it is a calculated and, therefore, itself an economical pleasure. For he debits it to his capital’s expense account, and what is squandered on his pleasure must therefore amount to no more than will be replaced with profit through the reproduction of capital. Pleasure is therefore subsumed under capital, and the pleasure-taking individual under the capital-accumulating individual, whilst formerly the contrary was the case. The decrease in the interest rate is therefore a symptom of the annulment of capital only inasmuch as it is a symptom of the growing domination of capital – of the estrangement which is growing and therefore hastening to its annulment. This is indeed the only way in which that which exists affirms its opposite.>
The quarrel between the political economists about luxury and thrift is, therefore, only the quarrel between that political economy which has achieved clarity about the nature of wealth, and that political economy which is still afflicted with romantic, anti-industrial memories. Neither side, however, knows how to reduce the subject of the controversy to its simple terms, and neither therefore can make short work of the other.|XXI||
||XXXIV|  Moreover, rent of land qua rent of land has been overthrown, since, contrary to the argument of the Physiocrats which maintains that the landowner is the only true producer, modern political economy has proved that the landowner as such is rather the only completely unproductive rentier. According to this theory, agriculture is the business of the capitalist, who invests his capital in it provided he can expect the usual profit. The claim of the Physiocrats – that landed property, as the sole productive property, should alone pay state taxes and therefore should alone approve them and participate in the affairs of state – is transformed into the opposite position that the tax on the rent of land is the only tax on unproductive income, and is therefore the only tax not detrimental to national production. It goes without saying that from this point of view also the political privilege of landowners no longer follows from their position as principal tax-payers.
Everything which Proudhon conceives as a movement of labour against capital is only the movement of labour in the determination of capital, of industrial capital, against capital not consumed as capital, i.e., not consumed industrially. And this movement is proceeding along its triumphant road – the road to the victory of industrial capital. It is clear, therefore, that only when labour is grasped as the essence of private property, can the economic process as such be analysed in its real concreteness.
Society, as it appears to the political economist, is civil society  in which every individual is a totality of needs and only ||XXXV| exists for the other person, as the other exists for him, insofar as each becomes a means for the other. The political economist reduces everything (just as does politics in its Rights of Man) to man, i.e., to the individual whom he strips of all determinateness so as to class him as capitalist or worker.
The division of labour is the economic expression of the social character of labour within the estrangement. Or, since labour is only an expression of human activity within alienation, of the manifestation of life as the alienation of life, the division of labour, too, is therefore nothing else but the estranged, alienated positing of human activity as a real activity of the species or as activity of man as a species-being.
As for the essence of the division of labour – and of course the division of labour had to be conceived as a major driving force in the production of wealth as soon as labour was recognised as the essence of private property – i.e., as for the estranged and alienated form of human activity as an activity of the species – the political economists are very vague and self-contradictory about it.
Adam Smith: “This division of labour […] is not originally the effect of any human wisdom […]. It is the necessary, […] slow and gradual consequence of […] the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another. […] This propensity” to trade is probably a -necessary consequence of the use of reason and of speech […]. It is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals.” The animal, when it is grown up, is entirely independent. “Man has almost constant occasion for the help of others, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can appeal to their personal interest, and show them that it-is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. […] We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. […]
“As it is by treaty, by barter, and by purchase that we obtain from one another the greater part of those mutual good offices which we stand in need of, so it is this same trucking disposition which originally gives occasion to the division of labour. In a tribe of hunters or shepherds a particular person makes bows and arrows, for example, with more readiness and dexterity than any other. He frequently exchanges them for cattle or for venison with his companions; and he finds at last that he can in this manner get more cattle and venison than if he himself went to the field to catch them. From a regard to his own interest, therefore, the making of bows, etc., grows to be his chief business […]
“The difference of natural talents in different men […] is not […] so much the cause as the effect of the division of labour…. Without the disposition to truck […] and exchange, every man must have procured to himself every necessary and conveniency of life [….] All must have had […] the same work to do, and there could have been no such difference of employment as could alone give occasion to any great difference of talents.
“As it is this disposition which forms that difference of talents among men so it is this same disposition which renders that difference useful. Many tribes of animals [… 1 of the same species derive from nature a much more remarkable distinction of genius, than what, antecedent to custom and education, appears to take place among men. By nature a philosopher is not in talent and in intelligence half so different from a street porter, as a mastiff is from a greyhound, or a greyhound from a spaniel, or this last from a shepherd’s dog. Those different tribes of animals, however, though all of the same species, are of scarce any use to one another. The mastiff cannot add to the advantages of his strength ||XXXVI| by making use of the swiftness of the greyhound, etc. The effects of these different talents or grades of intelligence, for want of the power or disposition to barter and exchange, cannot be brought into a common stock, and do not in the least contribute to the better accommodation and conveniency of the species. Each animal is still obliged to support and defend itself, separately and independently, and derives no sort of advantage from that variety of talents with which nature has distinguished its fellows. Among men, on the contrary, the most dissimilar geniuses are of use to one another; the different produces of their respective talents, by the general disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, being brought, as it were, into a common stock, where every man may purchase whatever part of the produce of other men’s industry he has occasion for. […]
“As it is the power of exchanging that gives occasion to the division of labour, so the extent of this division must always be limited by the extent of that power, or, in other words, by the extent of the market. When the market is very small, no person can have any encouragement to dedicate himself entirely to one employment, for want of the power to exchange all that surplus part of the produce of his own labour, which is over and above his own consumption, for such parts of the produce of other men’s labour as he has occasion for …”
In an advanced state of society “every man thus lives by exchanging and becomes in some measure a merchant, and the society itself grows to be what is
properly a commercial society.” (See Destutt de Tracy [, Élémens d’idéologie, Paris, 1826, pp. 68 and 78]: “Society is a series of reciprocal exchanges; commerce contains the whole essence of society.”) … The accumulation of capitals mounts with the division of labour, and vice versa.”
So much for Adam Smith.
“If every family produced all that it consumed, society could keep going although no exchange of any sort took place; without being fundamental, exchange is indispensable in our advanced state of society. The division of labour is a skilful deployment of man’s powers; it increases society’s production-its power and its pleasures-but it curtails, reduces the ability of every person taken individually. Production cannot take place without exchange.”
Thus J. B. Say.
“The powers inherent in man are his intelligence and his physical capacity for work. Those which arise from the condition of society consist of the capacity to divide up labour and to distribute different jobs amongst different People … and the power to exchange mutual services and the products which constitute these means. The motive which impels a man to give his services to another is self -interest- he requires a reward for the services rendered. The right of exclusive private property is indispensable to the establishment of exchange amongst men.” “Exchange and division of labour reciprocally condition each other.”
Mill presents developed exchange – trade – as a consequence of the division of labour.
“The agency of man can be traced to very simple elements. He can, in fact, do nothing more than produce motion. He can move things towards one another, and he can separate them from one another: ||XXXVII| the properties of matter perform all the rest.” “In the employment of labour and machinery, it is often found that the effects can be increased by skilful distribution, by separating all those operations which have any tendency to impede one another, and by bringing together all those operations which can be made in any way to aid one another. As men in general cannot perform many different operations with the same quickness and dexterity with which they can by practice learn to perform a few, it is always an advantage to limit as much as possible the number of operations imposed upon each. For dividing labour, and distributing the powers of men and machinery, to the greatest advantage, it is in most cases necessary to operate upon a large scale; in other words, to produce the commodities in greater masses. It is this advantage which gives existence to the great manufactories; a few of which, placed in the most convenient situations, frequently supply not one country, but many countries, with as much as they desire of the commodity produced.”
The whole of modern political economy agrees, however, that division of labour and wealth of production, division of labour and accumulation of capital, mutually determine each other; just as it agrees that only private property which is at liberty to follow its own course can produce the most useful and comprehensive division of labour.
Adam Smith’s argument can be summarised as follows: Division of labour bestows on labour infinite productive capacity. It stems from the propensity to exchange and barter, a specifically human propensity which is probably not accidental, but is conditioned by the use of reason and speech. The motive of those who engage in exchange is not humanity but egoism. The diversity of human talents is more the effect than the cause of the division of labour, i.e., of exchange. Besides, it is only the latter which makes such diversity useful. The particular attributes of the different breeds within a species of animal are by nature much more marked than the degrees of difference in human aptitude and activity. But because animals are unable to engage in exchange, no individual animal benefits from the difference in the attributes of animals of the same species but of different breeds. Animals are unable to combine the different attributes of their species, and are unable to contribute anything to the common advantage and comfort of the species. It is otherwise with men, amongst whom the most dissimilar talents and forms of activity are of use to one another, because they can bring their different products together into a common stock, from which each can purchase. As the division of labour springs from the propensity to exchange, so it grows and is limited by the extent of exchange – by the extent of the market. In advanced conditions, every man is a merchant, and society is a commercial society.
Say regards exchange as accidental and not fundamental. Society could exist without it. It becomes indispensable in the advanced state of society. Yet production cannot take place without it. Division of labour is a convenient, useful means – a skilful deployment of human powers for social wealth; but it reduces the ability of each person taken individually. The last remark is a step forward on the part of Say.
Skarbek distinguishes the individual powers inherent in man – intelligence and the physical capacity for work – from the powers derived from society – exchange and division of labour, which mutually condition one another. But the necessary premise of exchange is private property. Skarbek here expresses in an objective form what Smith, Say, Ricardo, etc., say when they designate egoism and self-interest as the basis of exchange, and buying and selling as the essential and adequate form of exchange.
Mill presents trade as the consequence of the division of labour. With him human activity is reduced to mechanical motion. Division of labour and use of machinery promote wealth of production. Each person must be entrusted with as small a sphere of operations as possible. Division of labour and use of machinery, in their turn, imply large-scale production of wealth, and hence of products. This is the reason for large manufactories.
||XXXVIII| The examination of division of labour and exchange is of extreme interest, because these are perceptibly alienated expressions of human activity and essential power as a species activity and species power.
To assert that division of labour and exchange rest on private property is nothing but asserting that labour is the essence of private property – an assertion which the political economist cannot prove and which we wish to prove for him. Precisely in the fact that division of labour and exchange are aspects of private property lies the twofold proof, on the one hand that human life required private property for its realisation, and on the other hand that it now requires the supersession of private property.
Division of labour and exchange are the two phenomena which lead the political economist to boast of the social character of his science, while in the same breath he gives unconscious expression to the contradiction in his science – the motivation of society by unsocial, particular interests.
The factors we have to consider are: Firstly, the propensity to exchange – the basis of which is found in egoism – is regarded as the cause or reciprocal effect of the division of labour. Say regards exchange as not fundamental to the nature of society. Wealth – production – is explained by division of labour and exchange. The impoverishment of individual activity, and its loss of character as a result of the division of labour, are admitted. Exchange and division of labour are acknowledged as the sources of the great diversity of human talents – a diversity which in its turn becomes useful as a result of exchange. Skarbek divides man’s essential powers of production – or productive powers – into two parts: (1) those which are individual and inherent in him – his intelligence and his special disposition, or capacity, for work; and (2) those derived from society and not from the actual individual – division of labour and exchange.
Furthermore, the division of labour is limited by the market. Human labour is simple mechanical motion: the main work is done by the material properties of the objects. The fewest possible operations must be apportioned to any one individual. Splitting-up of labour and concentration of capital; the insignificance of individual production and the production of wealth in large quantities. Meaning of free private property within the division of labour.