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

Money – the “real community” [1]

“Money is the real community, since it is the general substance of survival for all, and at the same time the social product of all.” “The reciprocal and all-sided dependence of individuals who are indifferent to one another forms their social connection. This social bond is expressed in exchange value, by means of which alone each individual’s own activity or his product becomes an activity and a product for him. He must produce a general product – exchange value, or, the latter isolated for itself and individualized, money. On the other side, the power which each individual exercises over the activity of others or over social wealth exists in him as the owner of exchange values, of money. The individual carries his social power, as well as his bond with society, in his pocket.” (Marx, Grundrisse, Penguin, p. 225, 156-7)

The bourgeois community does not accept the banal materialist truth about its social bond: It does not like to let itself be reduced to the self-seeking interaction of business-minded “bourgeois.” Even in the age of “globalization” and “unfettered markets” and a state budgetary policy which treats the “common people” as an overall barely affordable cost factor, it sees itself rather as a “community of values” in a higher, not at all pecuniary sense. One has and values a Christian-occidental “culture”; enlightened citizens attend to public affairs using a domination-free discourse; free peoples democratically determine their own destiny ... The idealistic self-interpretations of “western” style bourgeois society do not go so far that one would terminate in their name respect for the dogma that all economic activity has the inherent character of objective constraints, let alone the claims about “objective constraints” by the agents of the ruling economy themselves. However, recognition of immutable economic objective constraints should by no means be understood as an objection to the belief in the higher principles and deeper meaning of the bourgeois-democratic social bond. The lower and higher values, proper to their “spheres” in each case, co-exist quite peacefully. Very consistently, however, this ideal separation of the social “spheres” is of course not then upheld; “somehow” “the material side” is rather ubiquitous and quite significant; in the end, surveys of the way of the world happily boil down to platitudes like “money makes the world go round.” When it indulges in aesthetic resignation and illusionless sarcasm, the bourgeois “mainstream culture” does not give up the idea that this should not be true even if it really is, hence that the materialism of money is not the whole truth about the bourgeois community.

And in one sense, it is surely justified – even if it is certainly not meant in this way: money does not “make the world go round.” The “community of values” of free citizens is already involved in it. However, neither in such a way as if they had decided to introduce “free market” relations after careful consideration and a thorough impact assessment; nor in the sense that modern “civil society” forgets its higher values and sheer greed ensues. Especially in their value-consciousness, modern citizens display a will for a state by which they acknowledge – freely and critically, as is proper – the need for a public authority and accept and affirm the universal social relations of force that have no other substance than mandatory requirements for a bourgeois existence. And among these officially guaranteed decrees, a fundamental, critical importance for the system inheres in those that establish a “reciprocal and all-sided dependence of individuals who are indifferent to one another,” namely a “social bond” by subjugation under the regime of money.


[1] This is a translation of an essay from Das Geld: Von den vielgepriesenen Leistungen des schnöden Mammons by Wolfgang Möhl and Theo Wentzke [Munich: GegenStandpunkt Verlag, 2007]. This essay summarizes some basic remarks in The National Budget: On the Economy of Political Domination from the Marxist journal GegenStandpunkt 4-97. It includes three supplements consisting of responses by the editors to critical letters about it.

The first essay in Das Geld is available here .