Re: [OPE] Dialectics for the New Century -money

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Fri Apr 11 2008 - 10:49:38 EDT


paul bullock wrote:
> Early economies were variants of 'natural economies', thus 
> storehouses  la Jacob. Certainly, as you say,  the dominant movement 
> of goods was as non- commodities, as use values alone. That, in 
> principle,  any good might act as a unit of account, depending on the 
> key products of the society, we also agree. However a unit of account 
> in a slave society is not money in any capitalist sense, nor is it 
> money even as  a generally accepted by merchants in the interstices of 
> early societies.
I would clarify a couple of points here.

1) the examples from mesopotamia are as I understand it not the slave 
mode of production but a variant of the asiatic mode of production.
2) the slave societies of classical antiquity did have money in the 
sense in which we have been discussing it, coins which acted as a 
measure of value and a medium of exchange. It is arguable that they did 
no have 'money in the capitalist sense' if by this you mean transferable 
deposits with banks, which are the predominant capitalist form of money. 
But this later, specifically capitalist form of money is far removed 
from what Marx analyses in, for example, the Critique of Political    
Economy (1857).

>  Since as you agree,  several different use values act at different 
> times, or simultaneously as  'the' unit of account for the moment * A* 
> money has not evolved.  A money evolves insofar as trade in goods 
> develops where a use value is *not only a unit of account*, but a 
> commonly accepted unit of account that is *also* a* means of exchange* 
> AND has the capacity to store 'value'.
 From my reading I am unclear as to whether transferable credit accounts 
denominated in barley existed in Babylon, some
articles I read indicate that they did in later periods. If so, what 
implications would you draw.
> Even then the value is far from clear since only extensive commodity 
> exchange can bring out a common regular social quality in the 
> equivalent form, which leads us to observe that human labour is at the 
> base of the calculation of equivalence. Money evolves in these 
> societies to a very limited degree. It  is not absent, but its 
> presence, as I have said several time depends on the producion and 
> trade of goods as commodities. It was not simply a case, as you seem 
> to want to assert, that money was introduced for the purpose of tax 
> collection! Taxes could be collected in money once it had evolved as 
> such, but previously it was collected in kind or as labour performed.
I think this really does put the history back to front. Money in the 
form of coin emerges as a new way of levying tax. Tax in kind preceeds 
this, but what money does is allow the separation of the symbolic 
appropriation of the surplus product from the real appropriation of the 
surplus product. In a monetary economy the state only symbolically 
appropriates a surplus when it levies a tax, since all that the state is 
collecting is its own symbolic tokens. The real appropriation of a 
surplus occurs when the state uses these symbols to buy real goods or 
labour time.

If the Pentagon purchases an aircraft from Boeing, that is  real surplus 
appropriation. It disguises the unilateral transfer of value from Boeing 
to the Pentagon by issuing Boeing with a draft on the treasury. This 
draft can in turn be converted into another symbol system - an account 
with the Federal Reserve. The account with the Federal reserve then 
acquires purchasing power because the government undertakes to accept 
this in settlement of tax debts. Boeing is thus able to aquire 
transferable financial instruments with private banks in return for the 
Federal deposit. The private banks in turn use these federal deposits to 
settle tax debts due by other customers.

 If the symbolic reflux of Federal Reserve deposits falls far short of 
the drafts issued by the government, the unit of
account - dollar in this case -- tends to decline in purchasing power as 
is happening now. The state is continuing to appropriate
a real surplus, but for reasons of political popularity disguises this 
by restricting its symbolic appropriation.


> Where the unit*s* of account for rulers of eg a slave society  exist, 
> they don't act as money, there is no free exchange, there is no market.
This is inconsistent with my reading of classical history.
> I certainly don't want to 'back project' modern market relations of 
> the administrative procedures of the past, administrative procedures 
> backed by pure force, regulation calculated to extract as much surplus 
> product as possible, from direct, unmediated, exploitation.
>  
> As your comments continue I am not sure whether you are still arguing 
> that the ancient 'temple' state introduced money, or whether you are 
> indeed waiting for the Greeks, their temples, their slaves  AND their 
> boats.
The ancient temple states introduced a universal equivalent, but not 
money as we commonly speak of it now, independently existing physical 
symbols or tokens - those came with the slave mode of production.
>  
> Paul  B.
>  
>  
>  
>  
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Paul Cockshott" <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk <mailto:wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>>
> To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" 
> <ope@lists.csuchico.edu <mailto:ope@lists.csuchico.edu>>
> Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 4:34 PM
> Subject: Re: [OPE] Dialectics for the New Century -money
>
> > The account you are giving looks to me like laiser faire mythology, 
> with
> > money arising spontaneously from
> > truck barter and exchange. It involves, I think, a back projection of
> > bourgeois notions of the economic onto the structures of much more
> > ancient and stable civilisations. This is brought out in your 
> opposition
> > of economics/politics, where economics corresponds to a world of free
> > and voluntary exchange, and politics a superstructure on top of that.
> >
> > But if one looks at ancient civilisation, this model is inappropriate.
> > The state/temple economies were, according to Polanyi,
> > redistributive economies, where the dominant movements of goods were
> > non-commodity.
> >
> > It does not, in such a society, make sense to oppose politics to
> > economics in the way you do, since the state/temple system
> > regulated the flow of a large part of the product. Were the temples 
> with
> > their storehouses then economic or political
> > institutions?
> >
> > There is dispute by historians as to whether money existed in
> > Mesopotamian society, and it depends on what
> > one takes to be the distinguishing features of money. These societies
> > had a universal unit of account, in the
> > shekel of barley - a volumetric measure. But it was a unit of 
> account in
> > a litteral sense, since these
> > were literate and numerate societies with durable systems of records.
> > Shekels were accounting units in which
> > obligations to deliver crops to the temple and royal warehouses were
> > measured. A delivery could be
> > made in dates or some other crop rather than barley, subject to 
> official
> > published rates of equivalence.
> >
> > Such rates of equivalence would not be arbitrary any more than market
> > prices are arbitrary. Both have
> > a common underlying cause in the varying amounts of labour required to
> > produce different crops.
> >
> > The objection to the idea that barley was a 'money commodity' in your
> > sense, rather than a unit of
> > account, is that a circulation of the form C-M-C would not generally
> > take place. A farmer would not
> > sell dates for barley which would in turn be sold for sheep. Instead 
> the
> > farmer would have a tax obligation
> > in terms of barley, for which he could proffer dates, honey, flax etc,
> > as alternatives.
> > These tax obligations would be written in record tablets, and the
> > meeting of the obligations
> > likewise. If the calculations were all done in shekels, that does not
> > mean that a physical
> > stock of barley moved about, only that marks on clay tablets used that
> > as their unit.
> >
> > We are talking here about an economic model that lasted for 
> thousands of
> > years, and within
> > which the greater part of the flows of goods did not take the form of
> > commodity exchange. This system
> > had an internal need for a scale of equivalences which was distinct 
> from
> > the need that
> > arises in commodity producing society. It is unrealistic to have the
> > tail of foreign trade wagging
> > the dog.
> >
> > If one looks at Homeric Greece, cattle are a common unit of account, or
> > measure of wealth but that does not indicate
> > that cattle were actually used as money. They may constitute brideprice
> > or the units in which blood debts
> > are settled, but for a sea-going people, they hardly made a convienient
> > trading currency.
> >
> > Money in the modern sense of tokens having an independent physical
> > existence come into existence
> > with the dawn of classical Greece, paralleling the establishment of 
> city
> > states. The problems that
> > the commodity money theory has here are
> >
> > 1. To account for the fact that these coins were initially of far to
> > high a denomination to be practical
> >   for daily trade - whereas they were practical to meet an annual tax
> > debt for instance.
> > 2. To account for the fact that they had from the outset a fiduciary
> > character, and typically
> >   circulated above their intrinsic worth.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > paul bullock wrote:
> >> By posing the question this way you are asking if the regular use of a
> >> money commodity could exist WITHOUT  some social and political
> >> structure. Thus you imply not only that societies had to be political
> >> before the evolution of money, but that  - wrongly - politics per se
> >> provides an  explanation for the nature of the money commodity.
> >>
> >> Whilst it is possible to imagine a certain level of 'accidental' ,
> >> spontaneous and coincidental  use of the most convenient commodities
> >> as money commodities (plural) in very poorly developed  societies, the
> >> reality is that the two processes go together, and money first evolves
> >> at the margin of  early society. So your question disguises the real 
> >> need to find a money commodity to overcome the contradictory nature of
> >> the traded good ( that it is, without the money commodity any
> >> commodity  is both a use value and a money commodity). The early role
> >> of the state was simply to prevent abuse and cheating with the
> >> commonly used money because the money commodity  had ALREADY achieved
> >> social validity.
> >>
> >> Later on the forced circulation of paper money, the use of the 'state'
> >> stamp, arose because of the desire to promote commodity exchange and
> >> so that the state could more easily gather in surpluses. BUT this
> >> doesn't explain why the money commodity exists.
> >>
> >>
> >> paul b.
> >>
> >>
> >> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Paul Cockshott" 
> <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk <mailto:wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>>
> >> To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" 
> <ope@lists.csuchico.edu <mailto:ope@lists.csuchico.edu>>
> >> Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2008 11:51 PM
> >> Subject: RE: [OPE] Dialectics for the New Century
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> That is not quite the question.
> >>
> >> The question is whether commodity exchange alone without the state
> >> ever gave rise to money.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Paul Cockshott
> >> Dept of Computing Science
> >> University of Glasgow
> >> +44 141 330 1629
> >> www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~wpc/reports/ 
> <http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/%7Ewpc/reports/>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: ope-bounces@lists.csuchico.edu 
> <mailto:ope-bounces@lists.csuchico.edu> on behalf of paul bullock
> >> Sent: Tue 4/8/2008 1:04 PM
> >> To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
> >> Subject: Re: [OPE] Dialectics for the New Century
> >>
> >> Dave,
> >>
> >> I know of no evidence that money was issued by any state in the
> >> absence of
> >> some form of commodity exchange.
> >>
> >>
> >> Paul
> >>
> >>
> >> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dave Zachariah" <davez@kth.se 
> <mailto:davez@kth.se>>
> >> To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" 
> <ope@lists.csuchico.edu <mailto:ope@lists.csuchico.edu>>
> >> Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2008 9:26 AM
> >> Subject: Re: [OPE] Dialectics for the New Century
> >>
> >>
> >>> on 2008-04-05 00:16 paul bullock wrote:
> >>>> Marx demonstrated through a dialectical method, why money came into
> >>>> existence and what it represented. Then he demonstrated why a
> >>>> concept of
> >>>> price at one stage in the development of commodity production had to
> >>>> give
> >>>> weay to another concept ie 'simple price' to 'price of production'.
> >>>> Here
> >>>> I use the term concept as an idea that actually properly grasps a 
> real
> >>>> process.
> >>>
> >>> Paul, I think you need to be careful with the word 'demonstrated' 
> here.
> >>> You can demonstrate logically, i.e. deduce certain consequences, 
> and you
> >>> can demonstrate things empirically. They are not the same thing. 
> It does
> >>> not matter if the logical demonstration was consistent and elegant,
> >>> if it
> >>> is contradicted by empirical evidence one discards the theory in the
> >>> search for a better one.
> >>>
> >>> Marx deduced the origin of money, but it is a prediction that lacks
> >>> empirical support. Money did not emerge from commodity production but
> >>> from
> >>> pre-capitalist states.
> >>>
> >>>>
> >>>> (Incidentally since Marx died when my own grandfather was already 
> 16, I
> >>>> feel you should play down the 'too many years ago' bit as if it 
> were an
> >>>> argument ;-)
> >>>
> >>> It was just a reminder that Karl Marx was a human being in a long
> >>> line of
> >>> great thinkers but with knowledge and concepts conditioned by the
> >>> historical circumstances of his day. If you put Marx at par with other
> >>> great thinkers of that century, such as Darwin and Maxwell and
> >>> compare how
> >>> their scientific theories were refined with time as empirical evidence
> >>> accumulated and new theoretical concepts were introduced, then you 
> will
> >>> have a sober reading of Marx, the social scientist.
> >>>
> >>> //Dave Z
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