Le coût caché de l'argent

PRINCETON – Lorsqu'on dit que "l'argent est la source de tous les maux", cela ne signifie pas que l'argent est intrinsèquement mauvais. Comme St Paul, l'auteur de cette formule, on pense à l'amour de l'argent. Mais l'argent en lui-même serait-il un problème, indépendamment du fait que nous en soyons avides ou pas ?

C'est en tout cas l'opinion de Karl Marx. Dans son Manuscrit économique et philosophique , une œuvre de jeunesse datant de 1844 longtemps ignorée jusqu'à sa publication au milieu du 20° siècle, il qualifiait l'argent "d'outil d'aliénation universel",  parce qu'il transforme la nature humaine. Un homme peut être laid, écrivait-il, "mais s'il a de l'argent, il peut se procurer "les plus belles femmes". Alors que sans argent, il y faudrait probablement quelques qualités humaines. L'argent nous aliène, pensait Marx, de notre véritable nature humaine et des autres êtres humains.

La réputation de Marx a sombré quand il est devenu évident qu'il s'était trompé en prédisant qu'une révolution des travailleurs ouvrirait la voie à une ère nouvelle et déboucherait sur une vie meilleure pour tous. S'il n'y avait que Marx pour dénoncer l'effet aliénant de l'argent, on pourrait facilement rejeter cette idée en tant que produit d'une idéologie fallacieuse. Mais les travaux de Kathleen Vohs, Nicole Mead et Miranda Goode publiés en 2006 dans la revue Science montrent que sur ce point au moins, Marx n'avait sans doute pas tout à fait tort.

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