For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Economic Works (1861-1863)

by Marx, Karl (1988)

Key Passage

Taking Locke's whole doctrine of LABOUR together with his doctrine of the origin of interest and rent—for he considers surplus value only in these specific forms—surplus value is nothing but alien labour, surplus labour, which land and capital—the conditions of labour—enable their owners to appropriate. And ownership of a greater quantity of conditions of labour than one person can himself put to use with his own labour is, according to Locke, a  political invention which contradicts the law of nature on which private property, the right to private property, [XX-1292a] is founded.//For Hobbes too labour is the sole source of all wealth, apart from those gifts of nature which are to be found already in a consumable state. God (NATURE) "either freely gives, or for labour sells to mankind" * (Leviathan [p. 232]).But for Hobbes it is the sovereign who distributes property in land at his discretion.The relevant passages [in Locke] are as follows:* "Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this nobody has à right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature has provided, and left it in, he has mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property" (Of Government, Book II, Ch. V; [in The] Works, 7th edit., Vol. II, 1768 [p.] 229)."His labour has taken it out of the hands of nature, where it was common, and belonged equally to all her children, and has thereby appropriated it to himself" (I.e., [p.] 230)."The same law of nature, that does by this means give us property, does also bound that property too... As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by his labour fix a property in: whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others" (I.e.). "But the chief matter of property being now not the fruits of the earth, etc., but the earth itself... As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labour does, as it were, enclose it from the common" ([p.] 230)."Subduing or cultivating the earth, and having dominion, we see are joined together. The one gave title to the other" ([p.] 231)."The measure of property nature has well set 631 the extent of men's labour and the conveniencies of life: no man's labour could subdue, or appropriate all; nor could his enjoyment consume more than a small part; so that it was impossible for any man, this way, to intrench upon the right of another, or acquire to himself a property, to the prejudice of his neighbour... This measure did confine every man's possession to a very moderate proportion, and such as he might appropriate to himself, without injury to anybody, in the first age of the world... And the samemeasure may be allowed still without prejudice to anybody, as full as the world seems"* ([pp.] 231-32).Labour gives things almost all their value //VALUE here=use value, and labour is taken as concrete labour, not as a quantity; but the measuring of exchange value by labour is in reality based on the fact that the labourer creates use value//. The remainder of use value which cannot be resolved into labour is the gift of nature, and hence in and for itself common property. What Locke therefore tries to show is not the contradiction—that property can nevertheless [be] acquired by other PROCEDURES than labour—but how, in spite of the COMMON PROPERTY in nature, individual property could be created by individual labour.* "It is labour indeed that puts the difference of value on every thing... Of the products of the earth useful to the life of man ... "/100 a r e wholly to be put on the account of labour" ([p.] 234)."It is labour then which puts the greatest part of the value upon land" ([p.] 235)."Though the things of nature are given in common, yet man, by being master of himself, and proprietor of his own person, and the actions or labour of it, had still in himself the great foundation of property" * ([p.] 235).One LIMIT [to property] is therefore the limit of personal labour; the other, that a man should not amass more things than he can use. The latter limit however is extended by exchange of perishable products for money (apart from other exchanges): * "He might heap up as much of these durable things as he pleased; the exceeding of the bounds of his just property" * //apart from the LIMIT of his personal labour// * "not lying in the largeness of his possession, but the perishing of any thing uselessly in it. And thus came in the use of money, some lasting thing which men might keep without spoiling, and that by mutual consent men would take in [XX-1293a] exchange for the truly useful, but perishable support of life"* ([p.] 236).Thus arises the inequality of individual property, though the limit of personal labour remains.* "This partage of things in an inequality of private possessions, men have made practicable out of the bounds of society, and without compact; only by putting a value on gold and silver, and tacitly agreeing in the use of money" * ([p.] 237).We must now compare with this the following passage from Locke's work on interest,3 not forgetting that according to him natural law makes personal labour the limit of PROPERTY: *'[...) let us next see how it" (money) "comes to be of the same nature with land, by yielding a certain yearly income, which we call Use or Interest. For land produces naturally something new and profitable, and of value to mankind; but money is a barren thing, and produces nothing, but by compact, transfers that profit, that was the reward of one man's labour, into another man's pocket. That which occasions this, is theunequal distribution of money; which inequality has the same effect too upon land, that it has upon money... For as the unequal distribution of land (you having more than you can, or will manure, and another less) brings you a tenant of your land; and the same unequal distribution of money ... brings me a tenant for my money: so my money is apt in trade, by the industry of the borrower, to produce more than 6 per cent to theborrower, as well as vour land, by the labour of the tenant, is apt to produce more fruits, than his rent comes to"* (FOLIO Editition of Locke's Works, VOL. II, 1740).•'•'In this passage Locke has in part the polemical interest of showing landed property that its rent is in no way different from usury. Both * "transfer that profit, which was the reward of one man's labour, into another man's pocket" * through the unequal distribution of the conditions of production. Locke's view is all the more important because it was the classical expression of bourgeois society's ideas of right as against feudal society, and moreover his philosophy served as the basis for all the ideas of the whole of subsequent English political economy. (p.89)


Marx, Locke, Hobbes, Surplus Value, Wealth, Property, Value, Labor Theory Of Value, Natural Property, Inequality, Rent, Usury, Political Economy, English Political Economy, Distribution


On Locke, Marx



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