Re: [OPE] Kauri shells

From: Alejandro Agafonow <>
Date: Wed Jun 10 2009 - 09:04:18 EDT

Yoruba’s Cowrie shells and bracelets could also be subjected to the coercion of those entitled to highest social ranks. For example, potlatch is an economic system found in many tribal societies. It was based on gifts, and participants competed dilapidating and shifting considerable wealth (precious metals, symbols, food, etc.). In Kwakiutl Indian village on the Pacific coast of North America, potlatch was performed to validate public ranks and political privileges. Maurice Godelier has great anthropological works devoted to potlatch.   My point is that differences between Yoruba’s economic system and capitalist monetary system could lye more in the sophistication of the later than in the nature of a preconceived “good savage”.   Regards,A. Agafonow ________________________________ De: Paul Cockshott <> Para: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <> Enviado: martes, 9 de junio, 2009 11:29:35 Asunto: Re: [OPE] Kauri shells 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 cowries. One also saw statues decorated in a similar way with 1/10 penny coins, which had by then been withdrawn from circulation.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: _______________________________________________ ope mailing list

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