THOMAS WILLIAM KEYES, Marquette University


The present work is an attempt at clarifying Marx's concept of property. More specifically, it is a reconstruction and critical analysis of his arguments for and against certain types of property. This task is important because the concept of property in Marx's writings is central to his social and political philosophy as well as his theory of history. Moreover, the arguments for and against various forms of property provide a key to understanding a number of crucial notions in Marx, for example, what he meant by "communism" as a radical restructuring of society, including the abolition of private property; and what he envisaged as the kinds of personal and social ownership that would obtain in post-capitalist society. Despite its importance for understanding and critically appraising his thought, and for judging the movements that borrow his name, Marx's concept of property and his arguments for and against various types have not yet been the subject of any full length study. Thus, the present work is unique in its attempt to reconstruct Marx's arguments on property. That this has not yet been done can be attributed, in large part, to the fact that he never clearly formulated these arguments--all we have are scattered references of varying lengths. Chapter One deals with Marx's genaral concept of property. It focuses on what Marx considered to be the two essential notes of property: its historical characteristic, and the notion that property is a social relation. In addition, the meaning of "the abolition (Aufhebung) of private property" is thoroughly examined. In Chapter Two, Marx's arguments against capitalist private property from poverty, inconsistency, exploitation, and alienation are presented. A number of arguments for individual/social property from equality, freedom, justice, and self-realization are provided in Chapter Three. This chapter also serves, indirectly, as a general sketch of Marx's vision of post-capitalist society. There are two sections to Chapter Four. The first deals with the controversial question of Marx's concept of justice. There are some Marx scholars, such as Robert Tucker and Allen Wood, who either deny that Marx was ever concerned with criticizing capitalism from the point of view of justice or maintain that his notion was a relativistic one. I defend the position that Marx did, in fact, have a concept of justice and that it was non-relativistic. The second section is devoted to a critique of Marx's stand on property rights and distributive justice from Robert Nozick. I summarize Nozick's position on distributive justice and show how it determines his view on property rights. Finally, his views are compared and contrasted with Marx's, and a defense of the latter is offered. In the concluding chapter, I present my critique of Marx's position. Here I confine my remarks to the following three questions. (1) If Marx's economics, especially his labor theory of value, is incorrect or inadequate (as most Western economists believe), does this necessarily invalidate his arguments against capitalist private property? (2) Can alienation, as Marx described it, really be overcome by an abolition of private property? (3) Was what Marx wrote on self-realization sufficient, given its importance to the arguments?

Recommended Citation

KEYES, THOMAS WILLIAM, "KARL MARX ON PROPERTY" (1981). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8203767.