Marxism says capital owners are Capitalists. Does this mean the hot dog stand owner is a Capitalist? If not, how many hot dog stands/employees does he need until he is a Capitalist?

  • Yes, (s)he is. As long as one is using private property to turn profit, one is a capitalist. They need not have employees, they can exploit themselves too, according to Marx.
    – Conifold
    Sep 18, 2019 at 20:02
  • Depends if a significant amount of the doctor's wealth is invested in stocks, i.e. shares in ownership of the company which count as capital. Meanwhile the hot dog stand owner would be "petit bourgeoise" rather than bourgeois because they own their means of production but they don't rely on employees to do the production work. You might also look into the concept of the "lumpenproletariat" who make money in ways other than making goods for wages, this article suggests Engels may have had a concept of "lumpenbourgeoisie" as well
    – Hypnosifl
    Sep 18, 2019 at 20:59
  • Does the doctor have the power to hire and fire? Also they’re not normative. Neither is higher or lower. Nov 23, 2019 at 4:50

2 Answers 2


Consider this: let's imagine the hot dog stand makes enough revenue to feed 2 people. The hot dog stand owner can now hire an employee to do his job.

The employee works 8 hours a day to make his living, and the owner spends 1 hour a day making sure the employee does not slack or embezzle money, but makes the same revenue with the difference between what the stand makes and how much he pays the employee. The owner can now spend his free time doing whatever he wants. Although the employee generates enough work to feed two people, the owner gives him only enough to feed himself.

The doctor, on the other hand, works in an hospital. He might make more money than the hot dog stand, but he has to work 8 hours a day to earn it.

One can see how the owner on one hand, and the doctor and employee alike on the other hand, have very different perspectives about how to sustain themselves. The doctor and employee have a direct interest in policies like minimum wage, limitation in daily work hours, paid leaves, healthcare. The owner does not want to hear about it, as it reduces his own revenue.

The doctor might be richer, but consider that he has to be nice to his own boss in order to keep his job. He also can't stop working: he has to go to work even when he does not feel like it. No job means no money for him.

The owner on the other hand, does not have to be nice to anyone: if the employee pisses him off, he can fire him and hire someone else. It is usually the case that the job market favors the employer when it comes to low qualification labor. He can also decide to hire a clerk one hour a day to check on the stand on his behalf, and enjoy fishing instead if he so pleases. The owner can also spend his free time perfecting his education and social skills, so that he looks much better than the doctor at social gatherings.

Considering all of the above, it is quite clear that because he makes a living without having to work for it, the hot dog stand owner has a somewhat higher standing than the doctor.

Btw, all of this can be found not in Das Kapital, but in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the very founding book of capitalism.


I wish people would remember that Marx was not opposed to the principles of capitalism per se — which he saw as a natural and inevitable aspect of the division of labor under conditions of mass production — but objected to class-based capitalism. Class-based capitalism is problematic for moral reasons, because it creates classes of human beings who are effectively treated as draft animals, obliged to do labor for mere subsistence.

  • Does the hot dog stand owner treat his employees well, giving them livable wages and benefits, and the opportunity to advance in society? Or does he offer them as little as possible in exchange for maximal labor, in order to increase his own profits and leisure?
  • Does the doctor treat nurses and orderlies as servants, pushing off all the unpleasant and time-consuming medical tasks onto them so that she can relax in the break room? Or does she work with the nurses and orderlies to provide optimal medical care for patients?

These are the kinds of question Marx would like you to ask — questions about class and exploitation — not questions about mere ownership.

  • This does not really fit with the Communist Party Manifesto...
    – armand
    Sep 20, 2019 at 5:04
  • 1
    Have you read the Communist Manifesto? It is all about class struggle. Granted, the Manifesto was the last thing Marx contributed to the 3rd international before distancing himself (famously claiming that he was not a Marxist). Marx was not a fan of violent revolution... Sep 20, 2019 at 5:12
  • Sure... Dictatorship of the proletariat was to be achieved through throwing flowers at the bourgoisie and exchanging kisses, while waiting for the capitalists to get fed up with being rich and willingly sharing their wealth with everybody in need.
    – armand
    Sep 20, 2019 at 6:52
  • 2
    Yeah, sure... Again, you should probably read Marx's work. It would cure some of your misconceptions, though it probably wouldn't soften your opinions.. Sep 20, 2019 at 13:30
  • Well, it is true that The Communist Manifesto was about Class struggle, however, the biographical Karl Marx lived during the heyday of the Industrial Revolution. Marx saw, up close, the sharp divisions between "the haves and the have nots"-(i.e. rich and poor). The wealthy class, was usually, the "ownership" class which primarily included, The Corporate Industrialists. According to Marx-(both the Writer and the biographical figure), there was little distinction between the wealthy class and the ownership class; in many ways they were, "two sides of the same" capitalistic "coin."
    – Alex
    Jul 14, 2021 at 1:51

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