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Owners (sellers)

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Owners, at a certain stage of the development of Marx's thought, are phenomenologically distinguishable only as sellers of commodities in an exchange.

Distinguishing characteristics

Distinguishing characteristics of owners (sellers) include:

  • At this point, Marx is exploring the nature of market exchange. That is, by this stage, he has no present conclusions regarding owners as bourgeoisie and non-owners as proletariat, and class struggle has not as of yet been postulated.
  • With that said, by "owners"/"sellers", Marx is referring to the phenomena of market exchange whereby, phenomenologically, you have the appearance of two parties meeting in a market and exchanging, but without any necessary difference between them.
  • The role of "being an owner", thus, is predominately a social convention instead of a natural one. To put it otherwise, for Marx, there are no "owners" in nature.
  • The simple act of exchange between buyers and sellers is not in and of itself sufficient to generate surplus-value. Money is not yet in the picture.


"The form which circulation takes when money becomes capital, is opposed to all the laws we have hitherto investigated bearing on the nature of commodities, value and money, and even of circulation itself. What distinguishes this form from that of the simple circulation of commodities, is the inverted order of succession of the two antithetical processes, sale and purchase. How can this purely formal distinction between these processes change their character as it were by magic?"

"But that is not all. This inversion has no existence for two out of the three persons who transact business together. As capitalist, I buy commodities from A and sell them again to B, but as a simple owner of commodities, I sell them to B and then purchase fresh ones from A. A and B see no difference between the two sets of transactions. They are merely buyers or sellers. And I on each occasion meet them as a mere owner of either money or commodities, as a buyer or a seller, and, what is more, in both sets of transactions, I am opposed to A only as a buyer and to B only as a seller, to the one only as money, to the other only as commodities, and to neither of them as capital or a capitalist, or as representative of anything that is more than money or commodities, or that can produce any effect beyond what money and commodities can." [Karl Marx, Kapital Vol. 1, Ch. 5]

"This act produces no increase of exchange-value either for the one or the other; for each of them already possessed, before the exchange, a value equal to that which he acquired by means of that operation.” The result is not altered by introducing money, as a medium of circulation, between the commodities, and making the sale and the purchase two distinct acts. The value of a commodity is expressed in its price before it goes into circulation, and is therefore a precedent condition of circulation, not its result." [Karl Marx, ibid.]

See also