Karl Marx on Alienation and the Money Economy

Subject: Philosophy
Pages: 2
Words: 413
Reading time:
2 min

Marx explains that there is a connection between alienation or estrangement and the money economy.

Private property, avarice, and the separation of labor, capital and landed property, between exchange and competition, value and the devaluation of men, monopoly, and competition, are all interconnected. Man’s labor has put him into estrangement to himself. He is no more a human person who should be respected. He produces commodities. The economy depends upon him, in part. But the economy can depend too on a whole bunch of workers or workers in the factory. If they don’t work, the economy will suffer, money will be devalued. But since the worker, for as long as he works, is already devalued, he is estranged with money, an alienation of worker and money.

“The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever-cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing power of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluation of the world of men.”

Marx expands what money can do: “It can turn evil into good, and good into evil.”

He enumerates all the good things as a consequence of having or not having money. We are capable of many things because of money. “Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good.” Money can make the ugly beautiful; with it, you can buy many things, you can even buy the most beautiful woman even if you’re ugly. With money, you can make yourself honorable if you don’t have honor. Money has a deterrent power. In the diplomacy of nations, money is used as leverage for negotiations. If you are brainless, with money, you can buy clever and intelligent people. You won’t become brainless anymore, but a clever and intelligent person.

But contradicting all the good things that money can do are the possibilities and realities that it alienates people. It estranges people. Money can unite and separate people. Marx says that money is the “alienated ability of mankind”.

Money is the bond that binds people and societies. But whilst it binds all ties, it is also the universal agent of separation. It is the coin that separates as well as the real binding agent.

Money creates opposites. It is the alienating power that separates people.