[OPE-L:2369] Re: commodity money in Marx's theory

riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Mon, 27 May 1996 00:08:51 -0700

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At 22:54 26-05-1996 -0700, Fred Moseley wrote:

>I would appreciate any thoughts Chai-on or others might have about this
>question (including especially Riccardo, who I think has stated in several
>posts that he thinks that money must be a commodity in Marx's theory, but
>has not yet explained why, so far as I can tell).

What I tried to state is a complex set of propositions, the following:

(i) in Marx's original labour theory of value, money was deduced as a
commodity at the beginning of capital, when Marx analyses (general)
exchange as such. Eventually, value is labour because it is the amount of
labour producing the money who 'buys' the commodity.

(ii) being money a commodity, it has a labour content prior the exchange on
the commodity market at the end of the monetary circuit (the cycle of money
capital of a given period); moreover, it has a labour content prior the
exchange on the labour market => hence, the value of labour power is given
as an amount of labour hours before the valorization process, even though
the wage is advanced in money terms and the means of subsistence bought at
the end of the circuit. The value of labour power is here simply the labour
required to produce the 'equivalent'.

(iii) being money a commodity, and assuming that the potential value
produced will be 'realised' on the market, we can also know the surplus
value as surplus labour before the determination of prices. Surplus value
is here the surplus labour required to produce the extra money;

until now, I think that there is some 'family resemblance' - I am not
saying identity, with Chai-on's position. Value of money and value of
labour power are defined differently than in the 'new interpretation'; and
also the chain of causality is different.

(iv) I think that, for reasons we can deduce from Marx himself, this train
of thought can be shown to be wrong on the deduction of the money
commodity, when the presupposition of exchange as such at the beginning of
Capital is shown to be capitalist exchange - that is, general exchange
preceded by capitalist production which must be financed. This money must
be money as a pure symbol, nowadays bank credit money;

(v) if money is a pure sign, the definitions of value of money and of value
of the labour power Marx gave collapse; the same *seems* to happen to the
notion of exploitation before the determination of prices;

(vi) this issue is connected, through mediating links I cannot recall here,
to the question of the transformation of exchange values into prices of
production: in vol. I the definitions of value of labour power as the
labour embodied in the equivalent and as the labour embodied in the means
of subsistence coincide; they diverge in vol. III

(vii) my position is that restating the labour theory of value within a
credit theory of money allows us: (a) to see money (as capital) at the
beginning of the circuit as command over (wage) labour time; (b) to see in
production a pre-commensuration of labour which permit us to add workers'
labour time before final exchange; (iii) to maintain the 'core' of Marxian
theory, exploitation as a process going on in production before the
determination of prices; (d) to rescue the gist of Marx's transformation
problem as the logical priority of 'values' over 'prices'. Here there is a
change on Marx's basic categories (money, value, etc.) which is
nevertheless done in view of Marx's most important insights. It is a sort
of reading Marx after Marx. Thus, the thesis is that Marx was not enough
consistent with the methodological and substantive novelty of his own
approach to capital.

>From (iii) onwards, if I would go into details, I would join specific
points made by almost all of you (Simon, Duncan, Fred, Andrew, Alan, Steve,
especially Michael W.). I take however as my peculiarity the deduction of
exploitation in a monetary setting where money is *first of all* (bank
credit money) finance. I understand that for most of you money is discussed
*first of all* as measure of value and/or means of exchange and/or store of
value. I think this is true for most of the so called value form approach,
and the so called abstract labour reading of Marx. It is not a chance that
most of the people who worked in these approaches abandoned Marx. If money
is not put in in the way I propose, I fear that Marxian theory becomes
contradictory and cannot be supported (as Chai-on stresses). Note that my
credit view of money ends up fully endorsing the labour theory of value as
a theory of the *origin* of the capitalist surplus.

Sorry of this long 'abstract' of my positions. It's just because I can be
classed as supporting a money commodity view on one level (interpretation
of Marx), and non money commodity view at another level (advancing Marxian
critical political economy).

*If* people is interested in these positions, they are partly in papers
already written, and partly in a new one I am writing on. I can send the
latter to the interested parties when it will be ended.


Riccardo Bellofiore e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
Department of Economics Tel: (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2 (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo Fax: (39) -35- 249975