And you can quote me on that…
“I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness-its deterrent power is nullified by money. I, in my character as an individual, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured (sic), and therefore so is its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am stupid, but money is the real mind of all things and how then should its possessor be stupid? Besides, he can buy talented people for himself, and is he who has power over the talented not more talented than the talented? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money transform all my incapacities into their contrary?”
-Karl Marx (Edles and Appelrouth 49)
This quote from Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 is an excellent portrayal of Marx’s perception of capitalism and the power of money in a capitalist society. Under a capitalist system, Marx wrote that money becomes the most powerful entity and acquires the ability to transform the characteristics of any man who wields economic power. In this passage he asserts that with money a man can transform himself by simply buying the characteristics he wishes to possess. While someone may not literally be able to buy talent, they have the financial means to surround themselves with those who do possess talent giving the illusion that they too possess talent or at least demonstrating power over those who do. Marx also speaks about the honor afforded to money and by proxy those who possess money, saying that because money is viewed as a “supreme good” the possessor is also viewed as good.
To me this excerpt illustrates Marx’s fundamental viewpoints about the nature of capitalism and emphasizes his beliefs that capitalism reinforces a system of inequality among men. It is clear in this passage and throughout Marx’s writing that he has disdain for this system which becomes a foundation for his writings on the need for a revolution led by the working class that would unseat this unjust system.
This is one of my favorite quotes from our readings because I feel that it is extremely poignant and very relevant to contemporary society. It does seem that if an individual is lacking in some area, but they have financial power they are able to compensate by expending some of their funds. For example, how often do we see an unattractive, but wealthy older man accompanied by a stunning, young date to a social function? It seems to be just as Marx said in this passage, “I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness-its deterrent power is nullified by money”. It is strange to think of characteristics (and even other people) as goods or objects to be bought and sold, but unfortunately in a capitalist society money seems to be the supreme good.