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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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The volume at hand comprises a systematic analysis of the reasoning of Karl Marx on the subject of ownership. In truth, ownership is one of the central categories found in his theories and doctrines, and, more pertinently here, it continues to arouse great interest and emotions among politicians and scholars alike. Scores of authors past and present make reference to Marx when writing about property, regardless of whether they accept or reject his views. Nonetheless, their selection of sources and interpretations thereof are often so biased that one could conclude that Marx – as the author of an original and novel theory of ownership – is yet to be discovered.

Such a state of affairs in discussions regarding Marx’s concept of ownership stems from implications of an either social or theoretical nature. Among the former are mostly polemics of ideological and political consequence. Among the latter, theoretical resolutions have become ensnared in practical contexts and concrete effects which have hampered impartial academic analysis. After all, for the whole of the 20th century, the works of Marx were reshaped and twisted into a primitive political doctrine. Thus, a significant segment of his views has been moved into the shadows and suppressed. Even critics of Marxism were uninterested in stepping beyond a simplistic interpretation of the words of Karl Marx.

Among the dilemmas in this investigation, it is worth noting the great difficulties that result from an unequivocal reception of Marxist thought. Property and ownership comprise a running...

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