1. Money & Force Ruthless Criticism | Money – the “real community” | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Supplement 1 | Supplement 2 | Supplement 3

1. Money & Force:
The exclusionary power of property as thing

Money as an object is private power on hand and wieldable: the universal, only quantitatively limited power over goods produced by others and services rendered or to be rendered. It is the necessary and – to the extent its amount reaches – adequate means of access to everything that the society manufactures in use values. For these goods, the means that the society lives on in the broadest sense, it correspondingly applies that they come into existence as commodities for sale: produced for the needs of others and for use by others, but excluded from them until they put down money for them; therefore produced not simply in order to be available as use-values, but to be withheld from the social need for them and only to be available through payment of money. Hence money as universal means of access implies and includes the division of the social life process into an exclusionary antagonism between producers and consumers. Money mediates between private individuals who need each other and produce for each other and at the same time deprive each other of what they need and create for one another. On the basis of these relations of exclusion, they get together “to do business,” exchanging a portion of the universal power of disposal in money form for the power of disposal over the needed commodities or vice versa. Even where they come together with their complementary needs, they do not back away from their antagonistic relation to each other. Their social cooperation takes place as an objectified relation of force: as activities of the power of access and command over the products and services of others, residing in the money that one has.

The private right of disposal, which is materially on hand in definite quantities in money, is based on a universally binding social relation of force: on the directive of a supreme authority whose power of enforcement is beyond doubt, which thus lays down the law with its orders. The relation of exclusive private disposal over useful articles of all kinds, which it decrees as the first premise of the social life and interaction of its legal subjects, has its measure and its means in money. It does this by declaring all elements of social wealth to be objects of an exclusive private power: to be property. As the overriding regulator of social relations, it thereby sets the individuals who are dependent on each other in practice against each other in principle – simply in the sense that their social division of labor uses the private power of command existing in money and the lasting basis of their material social existence takes the form of mutual exclusion from the things they need.

Consequently, the modern state power, which establishes and guarantees private property as the basis for the life process of its society, also ensures the supply of money which equips the legal subjects with reciprocal power of command and therefore creates the contradictory correlation that mediates exclusion and quantified access power. Already in pre-bourgeois times, the ruling sovereign had honored gold and silver as binding means of access with its official coining stamp, defining the quantitative units in which this quality is available, and thus made the private power of property into a thing that anyone can carry around with them. It reduced the exchange value which the noble stuff may have had and in some contexts even retains as a commodity, i.e. as a useful good produced for the need of others, into a mere precondition for a new type of use value, that is, simply for the function of embodying a definite quantity of the right of access by virtue of state validation. [2] The bourgeois state for a long time hung onto this construct of a money commodity which quasi justifies with its own exchange value the quantum of universal power of disposal that corresponds to it by virtue of a legal act. Modern sovereigns have now, however, finally decided to release gold and silver from their service as the money object and attached the private power of access definitively and completely to the notes which for a long time circulated merely as directives to and functional proxies for the “true” money commodity – incidentally, without ever having been in fact “backed” by products of the precious metals industry in corresponding proportions. So they make the equation that money is really nothing other than the “objectification” of a forcibly decreed social power relation practically true even in the “nature” of these objects. [3] They admit that nothing is really behind the “power of money” except their official fiat, with which they subordinate their society’s material life process, production and consumption, without exception to the command-monopoly of property. They make this fiat take on a life of its own in a thing, turning their premise into a portable quantified embodiment of the wealth of their bourgeois society, absolutizing their systemic ruling about the economic cooperation of their citizens, as if the monetary “nature” of social wealth would present them with an economic fact almost beyond their control [4] – and so put money into operation as the real mediation of their community.


[2] The rulers were by no means content to declare the units of weights of these precious metals to be measuring units of the disposal power of property. By virtue of their legal fiat, they not only qualitatively distinguished their coins’ monetary value from their material value, but took the liberty of assessing them quantitatively higher – a very crude method of state self-enrichment at the expense of that inconsequential majority of private owners who the consequential minority of business-savvy merchants charged correspondingly high prices for the deteriorating money.

[3] In this respect, the only problem they have had since then is providing their paper money with security features that offer a guarantee comparable to the metal money, so that not every copy shop can pass over the commandment to exchange commodities fairly by creating its own universal equivalent.

[4] This absurdity stirred Marx to denounce money as a “fetish” of the bourgeois world.