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

From: Paul Cockshott (
Date: Sat Apr 12 2008 - 07:05:00 EDT



There is no problem with the direct barter of  items which remain physically in a central store. 
This doesn't involve money. Nor does lending any use value that must later be returned. That's not money.

Yes but what happens when the deposit is transferable and can thus act as a means of payment?

> 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. 
So the state issues symbols, collects them, (This first step presumably gets the classless population used to the idea of money?) then having duped the owners of  property, finally 'buys' with them, including labour time(!), which rather peculiarly suddenly throws up free labour -  in 'mesopotamia'.

No, if there is a state, then there is already class differentiation. There will have been
a prior system of tax in kind. There is then a shift to tax in coin. This appears not
in mesopotamia but initially in what is now Turkey and Greece. It also happens quite
separately in China.

Free labour is not relevant, since commodity production long pre-dates free labour
in the modern sense.


So money, in the form of precious metals, is not itself  a result of appropriation?  

In Europe, but not in China, the use of precious metals was important initially.
I think that this had two causes :
1. It reduces forgery
2. People had a prior association of gold and silver with wealth through jewellry and
   this would have transfered to the coin

But note that, 

a)   even the very first coins were debased rather than the pure ingots
     of gold that commodity money theory would predict

b)  the first chinese coin were symbolic representations of commonly used items of
    barter like knives and spades, so precious metal was not essential, other
    symbolic associations of value could serve

I think you see the difficulty you face; that is why you have to speak of paper money as the device that is introduced by the state for its taxing purposes. Well, even if I accepted the paper money dodge, the silver coin is still around.. how do you explain that? Metals have been used for money for at least 4000 years, 

what is your evidence for this?

If precious metal was the main form of money, why are there so few hoards of standardised

What one sees in hoards is either jewellry, or later coin and jewellry, but if there was
1600 years of private commodity money, where are the hoards. There are a small number of
instances on the record as far as I can make out, but these are much smaller in number
than coin or jewellrey. I am not denying that people in pre monetary economies will sometimes have
bartered gold items for other items, but I doubt that a monetary economy was supported
in this way.
Which countries actually issue silver coin now?

What exists as far as I am aware is a coinage largely based on iron, or cupro nickel, with
symbolic use of different alloys along with size to indicate purchasing power. So alloys
which are almost all copper, or iron coated with copper are used to indicate low denominations.
Higher nickel content is used to show intermediate denominations, and for high value
coin like the Euro or Pound, a bronze alloy is used to mimic the colouration of old
gold coin. But this is all symbolism, like the prediliction of UK coin designers until
now for putting Britania on the back, or Marianne on the back of the Franc.

ope mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Apr 30 2008 - 00:00:18 EDT