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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 VI: Conclusions


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Chapter VI:  Conclusions

The oeuvre of Karl Marx is like a splintered mirror in which two visages manifest themselves simultaneously: Marx the theorist versus Marx the ideologue. This metaphor takes on special meaning in the context of his thoughts about property and ownership.

First, Marx is persistently modern and up-to-date. He elaborated a theory which continues to meet the standards of contemporary paradigms in the social sciences. In contrast, most 19th-century concepts have become anachronistic; although inspiring, rarely can they be directly applied in the modeling or explaining of existing reality. The grand schemes of Ferdinand Tönnies and Georg Simmel have grown stale and hackneyed. An air of modernity, freshness, and innovation has endured only with regards to two theories of ownership: that of Max Weber and that of Karl Marx. It is about this side of Marx that this volume speaks.

In his analysis of ownership, Marx concurrently employed three main, theoretical perspectives of sociology (even if he did not see himself as a sociologist). This trio of viewpoints includes:

1) treatment of ownership as a social system;

2) perception of ownership through the prism of individuals acting as owners; and

3) treatment of ownership as a configuration of social relationships between various types of owners and non-owners, relations established by individuals through the mediation of diverse objects of property.

The last of these includes currency as one of the...

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