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

2. Money & work:
The economic command power of property

In a society in which wealth is defined as property and consequently has its true objective existence not in the available useful goods, but in the private command power tangibly at hand in money, labor is not simply a productive or otherwise useful activity, but its real economic “nature” is to serve as a means of money acquisition and source of new property: a potential quantum of money to be realized in sale. Its concrete substance, its direct material result, its benefit for consumption, the contribution it makes to the material reproduction of the society, to its growing wealth in means of production, living and enjoyment, its social necessity – all its results are subsumed in exchange value, transformed into the amount of money it generates. The reflected benefit and necessity of the work done for others, thus its nutritive value for the society, its whole purposive content, reduces to the quantum of access power that it brings in sale. Private enrichment is the economic purpose of work, the extent of private enrichment the indicator of its social benefit, the sheer quantity of successful private enrichment its whole economic substance.

This acquisition of economic command power through work is a strange thing. On the one hand, property grows with the amount of work which in the sale of the manufactured thing is recognized as socially necessary and useful. On the other hand, the increase in the work amount, which is expended for goods needed by others, counteracts the extent to which its recognition is realized in money: an increased supply of commodities can only be sold on a significant scale at lower prices; the commodity suppliers competing against each other ensure it. Already in this respect, labor as source of private wealth measured in money is a contradictory affair. This applies even more so when labor is made more productive through technical achievements: on the one hand, the more productive supplier has more to sell without an increased workload and also the freedom to underbid less productive competitors in price, thus the chance to supply more at their expense. On the other hand, it not only devalues their expended labor; but the chance to get hold of more money by using more efficient labor to reduce the sales price also disappears to the extent that the new achievement in terms of efficiency becomes the general standard. In a system of private enrichment through the creation of access power in money form, that which increases the material wealth of the society and thereby decreases the labor effort needed for it only serves the superior producer as a weapon in the competitive struggle for advantage; it ruins the inferior; and if a “level playing field” is again produced, it is over again with the advantage. Money simply does not measure the material wealth of the society, but quantifies the expended labor which proves socially necessary and useful as a result of the less productive competitor biting the dust in the struggle between commodity suppliers.

This monetary-economic (un)equation between amount of work and wealth pays off in practice in that its two sides, labor expended and labor output, are split apart from each other and distributed to two antagonistically interrelated economic actors: into those who carry out the work and therefore create monetary value and those who – by means of the money they have – dispose over their labor-power, have work done and therefore own the money value earned. Only in this way and for precisely this reason, because in the production of social wealth in money form the living labor that creates money is itself the object of the private disposal power of property objectified in money, the owner of money earns money with the labor of others, the advantages and disadvantages of employing labor as source of property go to opposing sides of the social production process, and money actually functions as a production relation that determines the reproduction of modern society. The “real community,” in which money interconnects the parts of its division of labor, persists because it divides humanity into owners of the private command power over labor and propertyless owners of their own labor-power, and productively relates these two antagonistic social classes to each other by force of law. [5] Money acquisition through labor involves the one like the other; they pursue monetary acquisition in an antagonistically complementary way. One earns a wage as a seller of labor power; the other, by paying a wage, procures command over labor, whose products yield him a growing private power of disposal in money form. On the one side, privately owned wealth accumulates with the employment of increasingly more mass productive labor and, with it, command power over the other side: labor power, which is saddled with the augmented and more efficient labor and the ensuing disadvantage, pockets a reduced economic power of access – they produce ever more and remain excluded in growing proportion from disposal over the produced things, from newly created property, becoming compensated with a declining share in the money earned with their labor efficiency. Their labor is – in other words – subordinated to the tough criterion of profitability: the double “objective constraint” of being both cheaper and more profitable; so it serves the owners, who pay for it and own its yields, as a weapon in their struggle with their rivals, and it can be freely and effectively used because the inevitable damage completely hits the side of the workers who are dependent on their wages: in the form of layoffs that make labor power redundant as well as an intensified exploitation of those still needed, thus by reducing and cutting wages. This is how the contradiction of the money economy – that an increased amount of work is a means of private enrichment, particularly a source of an increased amount of money, that at the same time counteracts the intended increase of private property – becomes productive. [6] Money, the “fetish” of the bourgeois economy, proves itself as an instrument of separation and mediation between the social classes, one of which, by virtue of the command power of its property, has the other create more money and always earn less of it.

It goes without saying that this productive relation of force certainly does not originate from money, which so wonderfully sorts the objective constraints of bourgeois society and keeps its economy going. This achievement of money is based on the permanent organizing, monitoring and support services of the state power, which recoils from no absurdity and no brutality in bringing about and securing a prosperous co-operation between the so antagonistically related economic “characters” of its community. [7] Vice versa, the bourgeois state power consistently does this in such a way that it invokes its noble services for the functioning of the community as objective constraints of money: using and depending on the money form of wealth that “the economy” generates from its wage earners and which the “visible hand” respectfully serves. Then with its rule a modern sovereign wants to be nothing but the trustee of its community which knows wealth only as disposal power in the form of an object and accepts the economic “rationality” of this “fetish”: the regime of money has been prescribed: in exactly this way, its free citizens serve as the economic basis of its power.


[5] With this summary of Marx’s “labor theory of value,” we can’t and don’t want to spare anyone from studying the longer original version, but to draw attention to how money fully developed according to its concept is in fact not some “community” program, but necessarily includes the modern capitalistic class society.

[6] Marxists reserve the term “exploitation” for this relation.

[7] The expenses involved in this are, as everyone knows, considerable – for details on specific items see The National Budget – and especially so manpower intensive that it is downright forgotten what the whole effort is needed for: The fact that so many people are active in order to make and keep the modern class society in working order through the appropriate use of state force counts as an obvious refutation of the class “nature” of this society. The organization of the labor expenses which the bourgeois community wants to achieve for the sake of its success as a competitive “business location” itself follows the “objective constraints” of money: The relevant services are in turn handled as a struggle for the acquisition of property, and indeed according to the “laws” of competition for maximum performance for minimum price, thus, wherever possible, by means of separating the staff into employers who ensure maximum labor performance for cheap costs and workers whose wages are measured so that the need for a cheaper maximum performance is never gotten rid of.