Philip Wicksteed’s positive vision of the “cash nexus” (1910)

Philip H. Wicksteed

The English economist and theologian Philip H. Wicksteed (1844-1927) turns Marx’s idea of the evils of the “cash nexus” on its head in his discussion of how the “economic nexus” brings together two groups who would not normally associate with each other very easily, if at all:

There is surely nothing degrading or revolting to our higher sense in this fact of our mutually furthering each other’s purposes because we are interested in our own. There is no taint or presumption of selfishness in the matter at all. The economic nexus indefinitely expands our freedom of combination and movement; for it enables us to form one set of groups linked by cohesion of faculties and resources, and another set of groups linked by community of purpose, without having to find the “double coincidence” which would otherwise be necessary. This economy and liberty will be equally valued by altruistic and by egoistic groups or individuals, and it would be just as true, and just as false, to say that the business motive ignores egoistic as to say that it ignores altruistic impulses.

In the vocabulary of Marx the impersonal relationship which existed between the capitalist and his workers was derogatively referred to as the “cash nexus.” Wicksteed on the other hand thought the cash nexus, or what he called the “economic nexus,” was a very positive thing as it brought together in a social as well as economic relationship two groups who might otherwise not come together, those who have certain technical skills and resources to create things (such as the manufacturers of building supplies), and those social groups who have a shared “community of purpose” (such as a congregation who wish to build a new church). In order for economic activity to occur individuals from a variety of groups and backgrounds must be brought together in order to cooperate to achieve certain common interests in spite of the fact that they might have very different personal goals and ideological viewpoints.