Re: [OPE] Kauri shells

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Tue Jun 09 2009 - 05:29:35 EDT

Until the British introduced modern state money in the early 19th
century the Yoruba used Cowrie shells and the curved bronze bars or
bracelets shown in this early Nigerian stamp
Both were common as decorative symbols of wealth when I was a child
there in the 1950s, statues were decorated with skirts or necklace of
 One also saw statues decorated in a similar way with 1/10 penny coins,
which had by then been withdrawn from circulation. See

I dont doubt that shells and bars were used as intermediaries in
transactions in the pre-modern era in West Africa, and that similar
barter intermediaries will have been used in other early societies. But
what I would assert is that there is a sharp distinction between these
and money as we now understand it. The cowrie shells were completely
displaced by modern coins once the colonial state imposed monetary taxes.
The same is true wherever a state starts imposing monetary taxes, and
this existence of monetary taxes is essential to the general penetration
of a monetary economy into a previously subsistence economy.
Marx's account of the origin of money, effacing as it did the role of
the state and of coercion in monetary circulation, was a simplistic
liberal myth.

Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
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Received on Tue Jun 9 05:41:26 2009

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