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On Property and Ownership Relations

A Return to the Social Theory of Karl Marx


Wiesław Gumuła

This book comprises a systematic analysis of Karl Marx’s reasoning on ownership. Marx as the author of an original theory of ownership is yet to be discovered. The creator of a theory which was to interpret social reality is quite a different thinker from the creator of a doctrine which was to alter the world. In designing communist society, Marx ignored the threats which social property bears, despite having skillfully identified them in investigations of diverse pre-capitalistic forms of common ownership. The author seeks to break through one-sided interpretations which discern in Marx a decisive critique of private property and an apologia of common ownership. It becomes apparent that Marx treated both the processes of socialization and privatization of ownership with equal consideration.

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Chapter IV: Social Property – Shades of Privatization and Socialization of Property


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Chapter IV:  Social Property – Shades of Privatization and Socialization of Property

Sketching Out the Problem

Karl Marx claims that property manifests itself more rarely in pure, extreme forms – be it private or social property – than in mixed or transitional forms. Property assumes an endless number of shades and tones. Certain aspects of specific forms of property can be socialized, while others cannot. The purpose here will be to analyze and extract those aspects of property which were taken under consideration by Marx when he spoke of the level of socialization of some form, or when he openly categorized some form as private or social.

In his eyes, each form of property is, in fact, a system of social relationships. The crux of socialization, therefore, is found in transformations of interpersonal relationships: this is what submits to socialization.

Presented here, too, will be Marxist sketches of select forms of property which he studied in particular. The guideline will be to identify relationships closer to pure private or social property. Reconstructed here, too, will be Marx’s model of socialization via components of property distinguished earlier and via application of previously identified criteria of socialization. This model can be understood in various ways:

1) as a set of relationships manifest in real, historical modes of ownership described by Marx as common, communal, collective, or social (even if they never occurred simultaneously in any one form);

2) as...

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