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

From: Paul Cockshott (
Date: Sat Apr 12 2008 - 05:23:22 EDT

Paul B

Certainly slave economies have used money. The question is what is this money? I argue that it arises through trade. You argue that it is a device designed simply to extract surplus via tax in circumstances where trade doesn't take place.  Since your reference to 'mesopotamia' is very vague I don't know whether we are dealing with  100,000 BC or Sumarians or Babylonians etc ...In any case  trade was significant in this region from the time of first writing,  and trade seems to have promoted writing, as far back as 5000BC. 

Paul C
By mesopotamia I am essentially refering to Sumerians and Babylonians, periods for which
we have written records. I agree that there is evidence that letters of dispatch
for goods existed prior to this, in the form of clay envelopes with models of
animals in them. But it is unclear whether this denotes the existence of commodity
exchange. An alternative possibility is that it indicates the dispatch of animals
between places by temple authorities and that the letter of dispatch was a check
on the honesty of the herdsman --- a check that the same number of animals arrived
as were sent.

But these mesopotamian economies were not, as I understand it, slave economies.
Economies based on significant chattel slavery, with trade in slaves come later, from 
about 600 bc or so. The slave mode of production reaches its highest development
in Rome.
Since the main means of production -- slaves -- are a commodity, the slave mode of
production requires a significant fraction of the total product to be commodified, and
as such requires a monetary system with coinage etc.

My position is that

1. Universal equivalents pre date the slave mode of production and are present in
   in the temple/hydraulic economies of the asiatic mode

2. Money in the form of both universal equivalent and medium of exchange arises
   with the slave mode of production. This takes the form of coins.

3. A key factor in the appearance of money of this sort is the state issuing coin which
   it demands in turn as its tax revenue. This extends commodity production by forcing
   the whole society to market a portion of its product.

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