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Readers of volume I of Marx' s "Capital" may remember in chapter 25
(pp.621-8 in the older English editions, or pp.614-5 in the more
recent Moscow editions) his quotations from Bernard de Mandeville's
"Fable of the Bees", first published in 1705. lJiandeville was a Dutchman who came over in 1691 - three years after William of Orange was
brought in "to ease the nation's grievance", i.e. to round off the
establishment of bourgeois rule in England.
In Holland the bourgeoisio hadoo~~ to powor by war against a foreign invader, without
any talk of Magna Carta or Bills of Riahts.
They had no need for
the maroy hypocrisies with which their English brethren, from Oliver
Cromwell onwards, had cloaked the firmer yoke which they were fixing
on the working people, now that their support against feudal absolutism was no longer necessary.
Mandeville was revolted by what
he regarded as English soft soap: he called a spade a spade, however
brutal it might sound.
And so Marx quoted his e:.:planations with gusto, that if property
is "well secured", you must have poor - "for who would (otherwise) do
All rich nations, said Mandeville, are interested in most
of the poor hardly ever being idle, and yet continually spending what
they get - "the only thing then that can render the labouring man
industrious is a moderate amount of money" (no nonsense about the
honest apprentice saving up and marrying his master's daughter): if
he had too little~ he might lose heart or become desperate, but if
he had too much, :~ t would make him "insolent and lazy".
eve:!' having heard of Surplus Value, Mandeville explained that "in a
free nation, where slaves are not allowed of," (he did not stop to
mention that whe~~llese iree nations had slaves - in their colonial
plantations - they did very well out of them) "the surest wealth
consists in a multitude of laborious poor; for besides that they are
the rever failing nursory of fleets and armies, without them there
could be no enjoyment, and no product of any country could be
valuable" (i.e, have value).
And ther~fore, he added, "it is
requisi~e that great numbers of them should be ignorant as well as
Knowledge both enlarges and multiplies our desires, and the
fewer things man wishes for, the more easily his wants may be supplied"
V'rhat Nnrx did not nerrt I on , however, was that the latter part of
quot,:tions CP'!"'lC from Mandeville's "Essay on Charity Schools",
wr~tten ~n 1112 and first included in his "Fable of the Bees" in 1123 _
and that this large-scale denunciation of education for the poor
aroused an uproar lasting over many years.
Before looking at the
reasons for this - end why it bears very much on the history of
Marx House - it is worth retrieVing some more gems from Mandeville's
forgotten (but not so out-of-date) work.