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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 V: Property and Social Structure


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Chapter V:  Property and Social Structure


The convictions held by Karl Marx about social structure can be analyzed with reference to three aspects: class-forming factors, social differences, and social groups. The first of these can be considered the deep structure, meaning factors which contribute to the ascension of social and especially class differences. The second encompasses differences in conditions of life and lifestyles between classes or between individuals belonging to certain classes. The last one pertains to the class structure seen as a configuration of social groups as well as the collective activities they undertake. The chapter at hand constitutes an analysis of Marx’s assertions on the topic of these three levels. The line of thinking here will be conducted in such a way as to illustrate the connections between his concept of ownership and the concept of class structure.

Class Relations as Property Relations

Karl Marx, in fact, never provided an exhaustive, comprehensive definition of social class – meaning one which would encompass all the referents of the concept which appear in his analyses of concrete social classes. His writings only reveal many partial definitions thereof. Yet, there is more than one way to reconstruct the Marxist concept of class: (a) by collecting and analyzing the fragmentary descriptors; (b) by identifying the premises of his contentions regarding class structure; and (c) by referring to his concept of ownership. And it is in the last of these that,...

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