To every purpose! 0 thou touch of hearts!
Think, thy slave man rebels, and by thy virtue
Set them into confounding odds, that beasts
May have the world in empire!
[Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, Act IV, Scene 3.
(Marx quotes the Schlegel-Tieck translation.) -Ed.]
Shakespeare excellently depicts the real nature of money. To understand
him, let us begin, first of all, by expounding the passage from Goethe.
That which is for me through the medium of money--that for which I can
pay (i.e., which money can buy)--that am I myself, the possessor of the
money. The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money's
properties are my-the possessor's-properties and essential powers. Thus,
what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality.
I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore
I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness--its deterrent power--is nullified
by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but
money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am
bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence
its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good.
Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore
presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things
and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever
people for himself, and is he who is power over the clever not more clever
than the clever? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that
the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money,
therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?
If money is the bond binding me to human life, binding society to me,
connecting me with nature and man, is not money the bond of all bonds?
Can it not dissolve and bind all ties? Is it not, therefore, also the
universal agent of separation? It is the coin that really separates as
well as the real binding agent--the [. . .] chemical power of society.
Shakespeare stresses especially two properties of money:
(1) It is the visible divinity-the transformation of all human and natural
properties into their contraries, the universal confounding and distorting
of things: impossibilities are soldered together by it.
(2) It is the common whore, the common procurer of people and nations.
The distorting and confounding of all human and natural qualities, the
fraternisation of impossibilities--the divine power of money--lies in
its character as men's estranged, alienating and self-disposing species-nature.
Money is the alienated ability of mankind.
That which I am unable to do as a man, and of which therefore all my individual
essential powers are incapable, I am able to do by means of money. Money
thus turns each of these powers into something which in itself it is not-turns
it, that is, into its contrary.
If I long for a particular dish or want to take the mall-coach because
I am not strong enough to go by foot, money fetches me the dish and the
mail-coach: that is, it converts my wishes from something in the realm
of imagination, translates them from their meditated, imagined or desired
existence into their sensuous, actual existence-from imagination to life,
from imagined being Into real being. In effecting this mediation, [money]
is the truly creative power.
No doubt the demand also exists for him who has no money, but his demand
is a mere thing of the imagination without effect or existence for me,
for a third party, for the [others],