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Non-owners (buyers)

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Non-owners, at a certain stage of the development of Marx's thought, are phenomenologically distinguishable only as buyers of commodities in an exchange.

Distinguishing characteristics

Distinguishing characteristics of non-owners (buyers) include:

  • The same applies here as does with owners (sellers), and it should be noted that these are not fixed positions, but roles that individuals play in exchange which can be switched.
  • Buyers may become sellers, and sellers may become buyers - such is the nature of market exchange. For Marx, the mantra that exchange is mutually beneficial is not contested.
  • In this same section, Marx outlaws two reasons for surplus-value in his attempt to explain the conversion of money into capital. To wit, "....neither on the assumption that commodities are sold above their value, nor that they are bought below their value" explains this phenomenon of surplus-value and profit. This is crucial to the understanding of his future development of his critique of capital. The solution, then, comes from without.


"Suppose then, that by some inexplicable privilege, the seller is enabled to sell his commodities above their value, what is worth 100 for 110, in which case the price is nominally raised 10%. The seller therefore pockets a surplus-value of 10. But after he has sold he becomes a buyer. A third owner of commodities comes to him now as seller, who in this capacity also enjoys the privilege of selling his commodities 10% too dear. Our friend gained 10 as a seller only to lose it again as a buyer. The net result is, that all owners of commodities sell their goods to one another at 10% above their value, which comes precisely to the same as if they sold them at their true value. Such a general and nominal rise of prices has the same effect as if the values had been expressed in weight of silver instead of in weight of gold. The nominal prices of commodities would rise, but the real relation between their values would remain unchanged." [Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1, Chapter Five]

" It is therefore impossible for capital to be produced by circulation, and it is equally impossible for it to originate apart from circulation. It must have its origin both in circulation and yet not in circulation. We have, therefore, got a double result.

"The conversion of money into capital has to be explained on the basis of the laws that regulate the exchange of commodities, in such a way that the starting-point is the exchange of equivalents. Our friend, Moneybags, who as yet is only an embryo capitalist, must buy his commodities at their value, must sell them at their value, and yet at the end of the process must withdraw more value from circulation than he threw into it at starting. His development into a full-grown capitalist must take place, both within the sphere of circulation and without it. These are the conditions of the problem. Hic Rhodus, hic salta!" [Karl Marx, ibid.]

See also